Joint tenancy

Joint tenancy is the most common way for couples to own a home. It is relatively rarely used by people who are not couples.

Under a joint tenancy, if an owner dies his or her interest in the property automatically goes to the surviving co-owner/s. The passage of the interest to the surviving joint tenant/s is known as survivorship. To take the most common example, if a husband and wife own a home as joint tenants, and the husband dies, the wife becomes the sole owner of the whole property.

If there are more than two joint tenants, and one dies, the deceased co-owner’s interest is shared between the remaining co-owners.

When it comes to estate planning, the key aspect of joint tenancy is that the deceased’s interest in the property does not form part of their estate. This is because that interest effectively ends when they die.

The principle of survivorship means ultimately there will be one remaining surviving owner of the property. This last remaining owner is not a joint tenant: they own the property as an individual. Accordingly, when that person dies, the property does form part of their estate and it is treated as described above for individually-owned homes.

The Dover Group