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What is joint tenants with right of survivorship?

Posted by attorney Barry Haimo

Joint tenants with rights of survivorship is a form of co-ownership (also called concurrent ownership) with another person, trust, business or entity. To own as a tenant in common means to own a separate but undivided interest in property, which remember can be anything you can possibly own. In the event that an owner passes away, his/her interest in the property will go through probate unless it's jointly owned or owned by a separate entity (i.e. not owned solely in his/her name upon death). Like tenants in common, joint tenants with rights of survivorship (JTWROS) means that the owners own an undivided interest in the property. However, the main difference is that, in the event an owner dies, his/her interest automatically passes outside of probate to the surviving owners of the property upon an owner's death. For example, A and B own an investment house in their names personally as tenants in common. If A dies, his interest must be probated or be devised to his/her appropriate beneficiaries in probate proceedings. (If it was owned by a trust it would by pass those proceedings). B would then co-own the property with A's beneficiary's as new owner. In contrast, assume A and B own the property jointly as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Upon A's death, the property passes to B automatically as the sole owner of the property. There is no need to go through probate proceedings. Joint ownership is helpful for avoiding probate and also devising property to family by avoiding probate. However, please note that this form of ownership generally does NOT provide any asset protection benefits.

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