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Forms of Real Property Ownership

Tenancy in Common  |  Joint Tenancy  |  Tenancy by the Entirety  | Community Property States

  1. Outright Ownership : This type of ownership, also referred to as single ownership, exists when there is only one, unmarried owner. For the purpose of making your will, you are the sole owner, even if a lender has some legal ownership in the property until you pay off the loan, as is true with car notes and mortgages.

  2. Tenancy in Common: All owners have equal rights to use the property. Ownership shares may be equal, however, unequal shares may be arranged by deed or other written contract. An advantage of tenancy in common ownership is that each co-owner is free to transfer or bequeath his/her interest to anyone he/she chooses.  

    Tenancy in common is the most common way for unmarried people to own property jointly. Married couples also can use this form of co-ownership, but more often choose joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety.

  3. Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship: Any two (or more) people can own property (typically real estate or a bank account) in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. When an owner dies, his or her share automatically goes to the surviving owner(s). The phrase �as joint tenants with full rights of survivorship� or similar wording (governed by state statute) must appear in the deed. A joint tenant cannot use a will to leave his or her share of joint tenancy property to someone else.

    An owner can change ownership of property from joint tenancy to tenancy in common in order to leave their interests to someone other than the surviving joint tenant(s). In most all states, transfers out of joint tenancy into another form of co-ownership can be done even if the other joint tenants object.

  4. Tenancy by the Entirety: This form of ownership is basically the same as joint tenancy with right of survivorship but is limited to married couples. The phrase �tenancy by the entirety� or �as tenants by the entirety� must appear in the deed. When one spouse dies, the entire interest in the property automatically goes to the other. Before tenancy by the entirety property can be changed to some other form of property ownership, both spouses must agree to the change. 

  5. Community Property States: In community property states, a person can bequeath their separate property and one half (1/2) of the community property.  In community property states, community property is owned in equal shares by a married couple, i.e., each spouse owns 50%.