Joint tenancy is a situation in which two or more people share equal ownership of real or personal property. The arrangement has four main features, which are:
- Each share in the property is equal; there is no disparity in the size of shares.
- The estates of the individuals are vested for the same period of time.
- The individuals hold their property under the same title document.
- All of the owners have the same rights until the death of one of them.
When one of these persons dies, that individual's property is shifted directly to the survivors; the property is not included in the deceased person's estate, so there is no probate. This transfer of ownership is called a right of survivorship, where the last survivor of the group becomes the sole owner of the property.
If joint tenants decide to sell the property in question, they must receive an equal share of any proceeds. If one tenant decides to shift his or her ownership interest to a third party, doing so breaks the joint tenancy, which switches the arrangement to a tenancy in common, where there is no right of survivorship (ownership goes to designated heirs instead) and the ownership shares can vary in size.