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What is a Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship?

A joint tenancy with a right of survivorship is a method for holding title to real property used when you want your joint tenant to have your share should you pass away. Conversely, if the other joint tenant dies, then you would take his/her interest automatically at that time. A joint tenancy can consist of two or more persons holding title to property.

How to Create a Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship?

Simply deeding property into all of your names is not sufficient. For instance, if the grantee (the owners) listed on the deed are “Tom Beckett, Jack Shelley, and Nancy Davis”, then that does not create a joint tenancy with right of survivorship. In some states a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship can be created simply by using “or” between the owners’ names, i.e. “Tom Beckett, Jack Shelley, or Nancy Davis”.  There are arguments that using the “or” method is sufficient in Tennessee, however, I do not endorse that practice. Rather, where clients wish to create a joint tenancy with right of survivorship I spell it out explicitly so the grantees are listed as follows, “Tom Beckett, Jack Shelley, and Nancy Davis, as joint tenants with rights of survivorship”.

What Are Your Rights with a Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship?

Joint tenants share all of the same rights in the land as a tenant in common (read more about tenants in common and their property rights here), but joint tenants have the additional right of survivorship. How does that work? Let’s assume Tom Beckett, using our names from above, dies suddenly. His interest automatically vest in Jack Shelley and Nancy Davis. No last will and testament is necessary and no probate of Tom Beckett’s estate is required. You are not even required to record an updated deed at that time. Title vests in the surviving owners’ names by operation of law. That said, if Jack and Nancy later decide to sell the land, they will need to show proof that Tom is deceased in order to give clear title to any successor owner. Typically bringing an original death certificate for Tom is sufficient for that purpose.

Carrying forward the example, let’s assume that soon after Tom dies, Nancy also passes away. What happens then? At that point, Jack, as the lone survivor, becomes the sole owner of the property. He is no longer a joint-tenant and there are no more survivorship rights held by others.  Jack may sell the property, leave it to an heir or beneficiary in a last will and testament, or otherwise dispose of the property.


4 Responses to "What is a Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship?"

  • Amber
    May 16, 2017 - 6:49 pm Reply

    Ok so my question is , what if my grandparents owned a home , had four children and only put two of them on the deed with right of survivorship with joint tenancy …eventually all four people on the deed die , my father being the last one …am I them able to take I erthe home since I am the only heir …or will the other 2 children of my grandparents not listed on the deed have some rights even though they were never on the deed ….I am in Michigan of that makes a difference


    • sjohnson
      May 18, 2017 - 4:59 pm Reply

      Thank you for your question! I can only speak to the effect a joint tenancy with right of survivorship would have on the property if it is located in Tennessee. If the property is in Michigan then their laws would apply. In Tennessee, the last surviving joint tenant (your father in your case) becomes the sole owner. When your father passed away his interest in the property passes to whomever he named in his Last Will and Testament. If he did not have a Last Will, then his interest passes to his heirs at law as defined by the Tennessee legislature, e.g. his wife and children. Feel free to email alexjohnson@johnsonmurrell.com for more details.

  • REG
    March 9, 2018 - 8:47 am Reply

    In TN, can the Trustee in a Bankruptcy situation sell the rights of survivorship? For example, my husband had to file Chapter 7 personal Bankruptcy in Georgia for business reasons. We own a home in TN and luckily this home was protected because of the TN law and JTROS. However, we understand legally my husband’s rights to survivorship are part of the bankruptcy estate. The trustee is trying to sell his rights of survivorship? My question is how does one determine how much the rights of survivorship are worth when both of us are still living? Also, if I die first and this issue is still open via the Bankruptcy situation, my husband gets my rights. So does that mean the Trustee can take the property outright? Need some ammunition specific to TN law. Our attorneys are in GA and are terrific but I may need a TN attorney to consult with our lawyers–not sure yet. We also have two children and would want the house to go to them when we are gone. Thanks.

    • sjohnson
      March 13, 2018 - 2:56 pm Reply

      Thank you for contacting our office via our blog. You’ve asked a great but very specific question of law that depends on your personal detailed circumstances. We cannot provide legal counsel to meet your specific needs via this blog but would gladly schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys to discuss the matter further.

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