Pros & Cons of Joint Tenants With Rights of Survivorship

The way buyers choose title to real estate could be critical, but choices can be confusing and occasionally misunderstood. California enables people to take title as tenants in common, or as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Married couples have the extra option of accepting title as community property. Every one these methods differ slightly to inheritance, ownership and taxation implications.

Ownership Share

A married couple, unmarried couple or unrelated people are able to hold title as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Joint tenants have to be equal shareholders in the property and all take ownership. Unlike holding title as tenants in common, one individual can’t own a larger proportion of the property than another. Advantages of holding title as joint tenants include each individual having unfettered rights to use, take loans out against or sell the property–in combination with another tenant. Disadvantages might include being unable to partition a property in unequal parts for what ever reason deemed necessary.


1 advantage of taking title as joint tenants with rights of survivorship is a tenant avoids probate when one spouse dies. Probate court proceedings can take weeks and cost thousands of dollars, depending on the complexity of the estate. A joint tenant will inherit the decedent’s portion of the property irrespective of what might be written in a will. The advantage of taking title as joint tenants is the surety that the survivor receives the property quickly, with very little expense and with no complications from conflicting wills or other documents. Individuals who want to leave a part of a property to a family member will have issues accomplishing the task with joint tenancy.

Other Factors

Spouses who fear potential suits targeting the real estate of a recently deceased spouse are protected if they inherit via a joint tenancy with right of success. 1 drawback of joint tenancy is the surviving spouse only receives a stepped-up basis for the half portion of the property the decedent possessed. A stepped-up basis resets the base value of a home bought years prior, to the market value at the date of inheritance. When a surviving spouse goes to sell, she can simply use the stepped-up basis for 50% of the sale. She might end up owing more in earnings in the event the home appreciated a sizable amount through the years.

See related