Posted by: SMARTER BOLDER FASTER | August 10, 2009

Joint Tenants vs Tenants in Common

By Elias Metlej

There are different types of ownership if two or more people own a property together. Understanding the difference is critical to protect your interest and plan for your future.

“Joint Tenants” describes the ownership of land by two or more people where there is a right of survivorship. When one of the joint owners dies, his or her share passes automatically to the surviving owners. The right of survivorship is the most important element of joint tenancy.

As “Tenants In Common”, each owner has a separate and divisible interest in the property. If one person dies, his or her share does not automatically pass to the surviving owners. Rather, it is passed on according to the terms of his or her will and the Probate Court will tax the value of the share.

The difference between joint tenants and tenants in common can have a significant impact on estate planning matters. Many couples buy as joint tenants to avoid estate taxes and related expenses upon the death of a spouse. If you plan to leave your interest in a property to the person that you own it with, holding title as joint tenants will allow this to occur immediately and without triggering probate taxes on death.

However, you may not want your interest to pass to a surviving owner. If you want to leave your share in an investment property to your family, as opposed to your business partner, tenants in common is recommended.

If you own a property, check your deed to confirm if you own it as joint tenants or tenants in common. Fortunately, it is not expensive to change the form of ownership if it does not match your needs or intentions.

– Elias Metlej is a real estate lawyer with the Halifax firm Blois Nickerson & Bryson. You can write to Elias at

Reposted from the Metro Daily News (July 27, 2009)


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