Tenants in Common
If two people co-own a property, they are tenants in common. So, for example, if Able owns 40 percent of a property, and Baker owns the other 60 percent, they are tenants in common. Able can sell his 40 percent in equal shares to Connie and Carl, and then Connie and Carl will each own 20 percent. Baker can leave his share in his will, and when he dies, Able will have a new tenant in common.
In a joint tenancy, each party owns 100 percent of the property -- but they own it jointly, together, as a team, with a right of survivorship. For example, assume Able and Baker buy a property together as joint tenants. When Able dies, Baker already owns 100 percent of the property. In fact, if Able tried to give his half of the property away to Derrick, Derrick would be out of luck because Baker already owns 100 percent of the property. The right of survivorship gives Baker full ownership.
Tenants by the Entireties
A tenancy by the entireties is the same as a joint tenancy, except that the two owners are husband and wife. If Bob and Betty are married and they buy a property together as a tenancy by the entireties, then they each own 100 percent of the property, jointly with the other. When one of them dies, the other will already own the entire property. If Bob and Betty subsequently get divorced, their tenancy by the entireties will convert to a tenancy in common. They will co-own the property on a 50%/50% basis, unless the divorce court orders otherwise.