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Tenancy by entirety is a distinct form of joint property ownership and is only permitted between married couples. This type of tenancy is allowed in a handful of states – 26 to be exact. It is not the typical form of ownership for married couples, unless it is real estate.
Joint tenancy and tenancy in common are two other forms of tenancy in which a married couple can own a property. The most profound difference between these three types of tenancy’s is the fact that a tenancy by entirety grants tenants the right of survivorship, which is explained below.
How it Works
Similar to a joint tenancy, tenants by entirety are granted rights of survivorship. In other words, if one member of the tenancy dies, the living tenant overtakes full ownership of the property and is not passed down to the heirs of the departed spouse, even if stated in the deceased persons will. Additionally, this tenancy grants tenants the right to occupy property.
In a tenancy at entirety, both husband and wife are treated as a single legal entity. In the case one member of the tenancy decides to sell or transfer ownership interest, they are required by law to reach a consensus with the other member.
In most cases, properties that are under tenancy by entirety cannot be subject to judgements imposed on one specific member of the tenancy. The other member cannot be held liable for the others’ debts.
Tenancy by Entirety vs. Tenancy in Common and Joint Tenancy
Right of survivorship is not permitted in a tenancy in common, but tenants may sell or transfer their ownership rights without consent. After the death of a single tenant in a tenancy in common, the deceased members ownership interests are subject to his/her will or intestate succession. Intestate succession passes on ownership interests to the deceased persons heirs.
Joint tenancy’s are granted right of survivorship, but either spouse may sell or transfer ownership rights without consent. When one member of a joint tenancy sells ownership interests, the tenancy dissolves into a tenancy in common canceling out the right of survivorship. Conversely, the only possible ways to terminate a tenancy by entirety is for the married couple to file a divorce, agree to adjust the property title or to attain an annulment.
Additionally, joint tenancy’s are not treated as a single legal entity such as in a tenancy by entirety. If one person in the tenancy is sued, both tenants will be held liable, thus allowing a judgment to be imposed on the property and face possible liquidation of the property.
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