Estate Planning Law

What Do Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship Mean?

Simply put, the answer to the question “What do joint tenants with rights of survivorship mean?” is fairly straightforward. In that question there are two basic concepts you need to know:

1. Joint tenancy; and
2. Right of survivorship.

In this blog, we will discuss those two concepts in some detail. Because those terms are pretty important whenever you purchase property, it is a good idea to review this information. Indeed, it is also a good idea to have the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney with regard to major life decisions as well. That way, you have the peace of mind that you have thought of everything when it comes to your future and your family’s future.  

If, after reading this blog, you have more questions about estate planning or still need more detail on the question “What do joint tenants with rights of survivorship mean?” then we invite you to call the seasoned West Palm Beach estate planning attorneys at Doane & Doane at 561-656-0200. Let us be your legal guide.

What is Joint Tenancy?

Joint tenancy is when two people obtain an equal share of the property with the same deed, at the same time. So, let’s take an example to give some context.  

Assume we have a married couple, and they decide to buy a house. Normally, married couples will get a joint tenancy arrangement, and that arrangement will be memorialized on the deed to the property. With the joint tenancy, they each own an equal share of the property. Stated differently, they jointly own the property; or, more specifically, they both own the whole of the property together.  

Is There Ownership Arrangement Other than Joint Tenancy?

Yes. There are actually a number of different ownership arrangements, but the one that you see almost as often as a joint tenancy is a tenancy in common. A tenancy in common is a bit different from a joint tenancy in that rather than more than one person owning something together, you have more than one person who each has a different ownership interest in the property.  

So, for example, if three college roommates decide to buy a house to live in during their senior year, and one roommate is going to take the big bedroom, then they may split up ownership such that roommate #1 owns 25 percent, roommate #2 owns 25 percent, and roommate #3 with the big bedroom owns 50 percent.

It is important to note that with a tenancy in common, the owners do not have to purchase their share of the property at the same time, or even on the same deed.

Now, you may be wondering “Where does the right of survivorship come in?” Well, the right of survivorship comes into play when considering the possibility that one owner, either a joint tenant or a tenant in common, dies. Let us now cover what happens if that unfortunate event occurs.

The Right of Survivorship

The right of survivorship, like the name suggests, is a certain property right that you get when you survive someone. That property right is the ability to have ownership over the whole property when the other joint owner passes away. It is important to remember that a right of survivorship comes with a joint tenancy. Thus, if you are joint tenants of your marital home with your spouse and your spouse passes away, then you automatically become the owner of the whole property. That is the essence of right of survivorship.  

With regard to tenants in common, there is no right of survivorship. So, taking our college roommate example, if – heaven forbid one of the roommates who owns 25 percent of the house has an accident and passes away – that 25 percent of the house does not go to the other two roommates. Rather, that 25 percent stays in the owner’s estate.  

Why Do We Have a Right of Survivorship for Joint Tenants?

There are four main reasons why right of survivorship with a joint tenancy is good policy.  

1. Provides for the Efficient Transfer of Property Upon an Owner’s Death.
The passing of property can be a cumbersome process, and after many years, the property can be difficult to trace. Therefore, having a right of survivorship whereby a joint owner takes full ownership of the property upon the death of the other joint owner is very efficient.  

2. Joint Purchase with a Right of Survivorship Ensures That Property Ownership Remains Within a Family or Business.
Related to the interest in the efficient distribution of property, the right of survivorship allows a property to stay within a group of people unless there has been an explicit change in the owner.  

3. Third, the Right of Survivorship is Rational and Reasonable
It just makes sense. If a married couple owns a piece of property, and one spouse dies, it would be unfair to force the surviving spouse to go to court or go through some other process in order to establish that she can continue living in her family home.  

Look to Doane & Doane to Guide You

Whether it is assistance to administer an estate, or answering the question “What do joint tenants with rights of survivorship mean?” you should engage the help of the South Florida legal guides at Doane & Doane.  

Florida fiduciaries seek the assistance of the attorneys of Doane & Doane, P.A. to administer and manage their trusts and estates frequently. The founding partners of Doane & Doane are board-certified West Palm Beach Probate Attorneys. With the additional advantage of certified public accountancy in their backgrounds, they present a unique combination of skills and experience which enables them to effectively settle, administer, and manage clients’ trust and estates.

In short, at Doane & Doane, we have the resources and experience to help you understand all aspects of the probate process . Doane & Doane’s probate attorneys in West Palm Beach can be your South Florida legal guides. 

If you think it is now time to get started on your own estate plan, or want to learn more about incentive trusts, give us a call at 561-656-0200.