What Is a Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS)?

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Owning Property Till Death Do You Part

 

There are a variety of ways to own property and Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS) is one. Looking at each word individually helps to clarify what the term means:

 

  • Joint: one or more together at the same time
  • Tenancy: the ownership or occupation of property for rent or a place lived in by a tenant
  • Right of survivorship: the surviving party owns all of the property upon the other’s death

 

Simply put, a JTWROS is a form of ownership of an asset by two or more people in which the survivor becomes the sole owner after the death of the other person.

 

Properties and Rights Covered

 

As with most types of ownership, each party is given the right to sell, mortgage, borrow on, or devise their share of the property. This type of ownership applies to both personal property—furniture, cars, boats, bank accounts, CDs, and brokerage accounts—as well as to property such as homes, buildings, and land.

 

JTWROS is different from any other way for two or more people to own property because it gives all joint tenants the "right of survivorship." This means that if one of the joint tenants dies, his or her share automatically goes to the other joint tenant(s) who survives. In some states, the survivorship position may be created automatically when the property is acquired by two or more people.

The Benefits of a Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship

Some of the benefits of a JTWROS include the following:

-- Each party has an equal share in the property. If there are two owners, each owns 50%; three owners would each own 33.33%; four owners would each own 25%, etc.

-- Each owner can sell, mortgage, borrow on, or devise his or her share of the property; however, that owner must have the permission of all the other owners to do so.

-- Unlike many other types of ownership, JTWROS owners do not have to be married to each other or even related.

-- There are usually no costs associated with the transfer of the property from the owner to the survivor(s).

The main benefit of a JTWROS is that upon the death of one joint tenant, no probate administration is required to transfer the property. The property automatically passes to the surviving joint tenant(s), hence avoiding the expense and delay of probate court.

 

The Disadvantages of a Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship

 

Some of the disadvantages of JTWROS include the following:

 

-- In some situations, other legal proceedings besides probate court will be required to properly terminate a joint tenancy with right of survivorship interest—including the determination of inheritance taxes due, clearing the property of inheritance tax liens, and placing a record of it in the survivor’s name.

-- JTWROS is not a way to avoid paying taxes. Federal estate taxes and state inheritance taxes must still be paid on interests received and may result in gift taxes.

-- Before a property can be sold, mortgaged, borrowed on, or devised by one owner, permission from the other owners must be garnered.

 

The Differences between a Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS) and Tenancy in Common (TIC)

Although JTWROS and TIC are sometimes believed to be interchangeable terms, as they have many similarities, they do have some distinct differences, including these five:

 

-- TIC ownership interests can be split in many ways; JTWROS must be split into equal shares.

-- TIC co-owners have separate legal title to their undivided interest; JTWROS properties have one title which is held by the joint tenants.

-- Upon the death of an owner, a TIC owner’s interest is passed by a will and/or probate court to that owner’s devisees or heirs; a JTWROS owner’s interest ends, cannot be willed, and the survivor owns the property.

-- The presumption of law with a TIC property is favored in doubtful cases except in the matter of husband and wife; JTWROS presumptions must be expressly stated and properly formed as they are not favored.

-- When a spouse dies, a TIC property’s tax basis is adjusted only to the extent of the deceased spouse’s interest; JTWROS tax basis is adjusted only to half (or the spouse’s share) of the property.

 

Additional Resources:

 

  • First American Title:                  

http://firstam.com/title-ca/sanjoaquin/html/cust/2195.html

  • Estate Street Partners, LLC:      

http://www.ultratrust.com/asset-protection-joint-tenancy-community-property.html

  • Living Trusts:

http://www.aboutlivingtrusts.com/resources/joint_tenancy.htm

 
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