To be legally correct, joint-tenancy real estate ownership means “joint tenancy with right of survivorship.” A few states require use of those exact words on the deed. But in most states, “joint tenancy” is sufficient. Survivorship means the joint tenant who outlives the joint tenant co-owner(s) automatically receives the deceased’s share of the property without probate court costs or delays.

Probate court avoidance is considered the major joint-tenancy advantage. All that is usually necessary to clear the title of a deceased joint tenant’s name is to record a certified copy of the death certificate and an affidavit of survivorship with the local recorder of deeds.The will of a deceased joint tenant has no effect on their joint-tenancy property. However, joint tenants still need a written will. In the event of simultaneous death of all the joint tenants, such as in a plane crash, the will of each deceased joint tenant determines who receives their share of the property. Or, in the unlikely event one joint tenant kills another joint tenant, the wrongdoer cannot receive the deceased joint tenant’s share by survivorship so the deceased joint tenant’s will then becomes important. Although joint tenancy usually involves two co-owners, such as husband and wife, there can be an unlimited number of joint tenants. But they all must take title at the same time by the same deed, and they all own equal shares.

For example, suppose John and Mary Buyer purchase their home as joint tenants. Each therefore owns a 50 percent share. However, when their daughter, Suzy, becomes 18 they decide to add her as an additional joint tenant.

To add Suzy to the title, John and Mary sign and record a quitclaim deed from themselves to John, Mary and Suzy as joint tenants with right of survivorship. The result is each of the three joint tenants now own a one-third interest in the home.