Property held by two or more people is titled in two basic ways, as a joint tenancy or tenancy in common. Joint tenancy has the right of survivorship. For example, if a brother and sister own the property in joint tenancy, and the brother dies, the sister is now the sole owner of the property; the brother's half does not pass to his heirs. If the brother and sister hold the property as tenants in common, after the brother's death the sister still owns only one half of the property and the brother's heirs would hold the other half as tenants in common.
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Agree to partition the property. If all owners agree to partition the property, you can partition the property by a voluntary agreement. After partition, each owner holds his share of the property independently. The parties could then agree to change their property ownership to a tenancy in common.
File an action for partition. You can file an action to have the court partition the property if the property is held in joint tenancy and an agreement cannot be reached regarding the property's distribution. The court may decide to divide the property amongst the owners. If no reasonable method exists to evenly divide the property, the court has the authority to sell the property and distribute the money amongst all owners.
Sell part of the estate. This is an involuntary termination of the joint tenancy. If one owner sells her interest in the property, the new owner now holds title with the original owners as tenants in common.
Tips and warnings
- A testamentary will has no effect on joint tenancy. In other words, if you hold land in joint tenancy, granting your ownership of the property to a named beneficiary will have no effect and does not sever the joint tenancy.
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