To be or not to be Tenants in Common, that is the question… or at least that is the question when you purchase a piece of real property with someone else. In Connecticut, the typical forms of ownership of real property are as Joint Tenants (with rights of survivorship) or as Tenants in Common. But, what does that mean?
Whether you own the real property as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common, you and your co-owner (or co-owners) have the right to live in and use the entire property. It is not like when you shared a room with a sibling as a kid and ran tape down the middle of the room (and crossing that line meant guaranteed death). You are not required to keep your mess or belongings within your fractional ownership portion. Although, that would make living with my husband and kids a lot easier…
The significance between the two types of ownership isn’t in how you live in the property, but rather what happens to the property when you die. If you own the property as Joint Tenants when you pass away your co-owner automatically becomes the owner of your interest in the property by operation of law. In other words, all you have to do is die, and your co-owner (or in my case spouse) would own the entire property.
If you own the property as Tenants in Common, in contrast, when you pass away, your share would be devised in accordance with your Will or the laws of intestacy. This means I could actually leave my ownership interest in my house to my mom forcing my husband and her to be co-owners. Forever. Or at least until they decided to sell, someone sued for partition, or someone died (or in this example was likely killed).
So by now you are probably thinking if I want my co-owner to own the whole piece of property should anything happen to me then we should own it as Joint Tenants, and if I might want someone else to get my share then we should own it as Tenants in Common. Although that is true, there is one little wrinkle to take into consideration. When you own the property as Tenants in Common and you pass away, the lucky someone (or someones) to inherit your interest in the property does not become the owner by operation of law. Your interest in the real property becomes a part of your estate, which is subject to Probate. Although the property would be devised to your heir, it is subject to divestiture. Simply put, if your estate is insolvent, your interest in your home may be used to satisfy your debts, leaving your heirs a lot less house than you had thought- maybe none at all.
The default ownership type for co-owners in Connecticut is as Tenants in Common. In other words, if the Deed does not specifically state “as Joint Tenants” or “as Joint Tenants with rights of Survivorship” or other language that imparts that the property is conveyed unto the survivor of you and your co-owners and your heirs and assigns, the property is owned as Tenants in Common. After reviewing your Deed (which I am sure you will do as soon as you are done reading this) you realize that you do not own your home the way that you’d like, or you still have more questions than answers, please call us, and our experienced Real Estate attorneys we will be happy to prepare a Deed for you that will meet all of your needs.
Contact the Experienced Real Estate Attorneys at The APEX Law Firm
The APEX Law Firm has offices in Hartford County and Milford Connecticut. Please call us at (860) 900-0900 contact us through our website at www.apexlawfirmct.com.