Joint Tenancy versus Tenancy in Common

When purchasing a piece of real estate Minnesota home buyers must consider how they want to hold the deed to the property.  This is of particular importance when more than one person is going to have an ownership interest in a piece of property.  Both joint tenancy and tenancy in common allows more than one person to have joint ownership in real property.  However, if the home buyers want to purchase the home as joint tenants, they must specifically state this in writing in order for it to be valid in the state of Minnesota. 

Under joint tenancy, when a joint tenant passes away, the surviving joint tenant becomes the owner of the deceased tenant’s share in the property.  Joint tenants are said to have a “right of survivorship” because they acquire ownership interest automatically after the other joint tenant passes away.  Additionally, each joint tenant’s interest in the real property is undivided and both owners in a joint tenancy have the right to use all of the property.  Joint tenancy is commonly used for ownership of property among spouses.  However, joint tenancy is typically only used when neither spouse has children from a prior relationship.  If there are children from a prior relationship, the owners of the property may prefer for the property to pass as it normally would under Minnesota inheritance laws. 

The other option when multiple owners are purchasing a property is for all of the owners to be tenants in common.  Under tenancy in common, when a tenant in common passes away the shares that belong to the dead owner pass to heirs under the laws of Minnesota inheritance.  Unlike with a joint tenancy, the tenants in common do not have a right of survivorship in the shares owned by the deceased.  Tenants in common each own an undivided interest in the real estate and have equal rights to use the property even if their ownership percentage is unequal.  Because tenants in common can have uneven ownership percentages, each has the right to convey their portion and transfer title.  Tenancy in common is typically used when non-family members want joint ownership of a property or with spouses that have children from prior relationships, thus ensuring that separate property interests can be passed along under the normal rules of inheritance succession. 

Under Minnesota law, when a deed does not specify whether the property is being purchased as tenants in common or as joint tenants, the law presumes the owners to be tenants in common.  How ownership interest in property passes can be important for two reasons, first, to avoid any issues after death of ownership interest in a piece of property among heirs and second, to avoid having an estate go through probate.  Good estate planning and careful consideration of how the deed to a real estate purchase should read can save a lot of pain later down the line when one of the owners wants to sell the property or an owner passes away. 

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