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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.


12 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.

  • Gary Redding
    March 20, 2018 - 12:48 am Reply

    If one party in a joint tenancy wishes to give up their ownership is there anything more to it than just removing them from the deed? Example: parents and child purchase house together. Parents decide to move away and take their names off the deed.

    • sjohnson
      February 7, 2019 - 3:48 pm Reply

      A new deed would have to be prepared stating to whom the owner would like to give their share. If, in your example, the parents would like their child to have the home, they would need to sign a deed to the child.

  • Jessica
    July 23, 2018 - 9:55 pm Reply

    Once one of 3 joint tenants die, can a remaining joint tenant sever their interest by recording a quit claim deed and recording a deed upon death for his 50% interest to a third party and deprive one of the remaining joint tenants of the right to their survivorship ?

    • sjohnson
      February 7, 2019 - 5:15 pm Reply

      In the past it took both parties to sever a joint tenancy with right of survivorship; however, a recent Tennessee Court of Appeals case has raised the possibility of severing a joint tenancy through the actions of only one joint tenancy holder. This is a new development in Tennessee case law and not a course of action we would recommend.

  • cherilyn hobgood
    December 24, 2018 - 3:41 pm Reply

    hi i was wondering about when my mother passes away as an only adult child and my mother has not remarried we both still care his last name do i inherit all her belongings with or without will the house and the land is not yet paid off she and my adult son are both listed on the contract of deed as an even split of the entire real property will my name replace my mothers or does my son receive it all at that time until my granddaughter reaches the age 18 which i have no problem with that my question is does my aunt living rights die with my mother or does my son and i have to upload that legal document for some reason we are all confused to what tenn law requires and some family members believe that i absolutely do not have any say what so ever on my mothers behalf nor any legal rights as my mothers only heir sense my older brother has sense passed away also it has been my understanding and a little bit of knowledge there is no one left to contest me in this matter would you so kindly clear this matter up thank you

    • sjohnson
      February 7, 2019 - 3:57 pm Reply

      You’ve asked a lot of good questions here but a lot more specific information would be needed to clarify these issues for you. An attorney would need to meet with you to discuss this. If there is a deed for the property with only your mother’s name listed as owner to that property, the property would pass at her death according to her Last Will & Testament (if she has one). If you would like to meet and discuss the specifics of your situation, we would be happy to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys – just call our office at 865-453-1091 to set that up!

  • DWC
    February 1, 2019 - 10:21 pm Reply

    So, my mother and step-father wish to create a joint tenancy with right of surviorship with my half brother on the property that they already own this way as a married couple. This is in TN. Am I correct that both original owners (my mother and step-father) would have to transfer some kind of interest to him? So how would that be worded in a Quit Claim Deed?

    • sjohnson
      February 7, 2019 - 3:44 pm Reply

      Yes, both of the owners need to sign to convey a full interest to your half brother. If one parent signs and the other does not then it will raise an issue as to how much interest was actually conveyed. An attorney would need to review the original deed before preparing language for a conveyance.

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