How Do People Own Assets? Part III – Tenants in Common and Tenancy by the Entirety.

This is the third in a series of post in what manner people, either individually or collectively own property, and how that property transfers upon death.  The first post can be read by clicking here (individual ownership of property).  The second post can be read by clicking here (joint tenancy ownership).

The second form of co-ownership is called tenants in common.  Each person is still entitled to possession as a whole but can have unequal interests in the property. For example, two people can have a 60/40 split ownership of a property or three people can split the property 40/30/30.  For real estate, this form of ownership is most common where the co-owners are not married or have contributed different amounts to the acquisition of the property.

Further, unlike joint tenancy, tenants in common have no right of survivorship.  This means that if one tenant in common dies, the decedant-tenant’s interest in the property will be part of his or her estate.  The interest will pass by inheritance to that owner’s devisees or heirs, either by will, or by intestate succession.  For example, if an unmarried couple purchases a house, and one of them dies, the surviving member of the couple would not take over full ownership of the home, but the interest in the house of the dying person would pass to that person’s heirs by intestacy or probate.  The same outcome would occur if two people own a checking account; the heirs of the dying person would inherit their interest in the checking account.

The last type of ownership is tenancy in the entirety or entireties and is only available to married persons and generally restricted to real property. Ownership of property is treated as though the couple were a single legal person. Like joint tenancy, the tenancy by the entirety also encompasses a right of survivorship, so if one spouse dies, the entire interest in the property passes to the surviving spouse, without going through probate. Further, only a joint creditor to the married couple may severe the tenancy.

I hope this helps those out there understand a little more about property ownership.


About Chris Guest

I am a trust and estate planning attorney working in the Washington, DC metro area. I offer comprehensive estate planning, trust administration, probate services and general business counseling for accountants, attorneys, business owners, consultants, federal and local government employees, retirees, other business professionals and other individuals.
This entry was posted in Asset Ownership, Estate Planning, Tenancy by the Entirety, Tenants in Common. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to How Do People Own Assets? Part III – Tenants in Common and Tenancy by the Entirety.

  1. Pingback: What’s the Difference between Probate and Non-Probate Assets? | VA Estate Planner

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