We often work with families or business associates that want joint ownership of a property but aren’t sure which type of ownership structure is best for their unique situation. The owners of the property are referred to as tenants. With the help of an experienced real estate attorney, finding the best way to hold property for your specific situation does not have to be difficult.
Here are 3 Ways to Establish Joint Ownership in North Carolina:
1. Tenants by Entirety
- Tenants by the Entireties is a type of joint ownership that can only exist between two married people.
- In this type of ownership, the married couple is considered one entity that owns the real property. A creditor of only one spouse seeking to enforce a debt or judgment against that spouse cannot force the sale of the entireties property.
If a spouse dies, the surviving spouse will automatically take over the interest in the property. The only time this ownership can be destroyed is by death, divorce, or a transfer by the couple into another form of ownership, whether individual or joint.
2. Tenants in Common
- Two or more owners can also hold property as tenants in common, with each owner owning an “undivided” interest in the property.
- This is the most common type of ownership of real property between unmarried individuals. The ownership interest amounts can be equal or unequal, but all owners are entitled to use and possess the property as a whole. Tenants in common can freely transfer, encumber, and devise their individual interest in the property as they choose.
This type of ownership does not have survivorship rights in the property. So, at the death of one owner, the property passes to the deceased owner’s heirs, as opposed to other owners.
3. Joint Tenancy With Right of Survivorship
- The third way property can be jointly held in North Carolina is a joint tenancy with right of survivorship. This type of ownership is very similar to a tenancy in common, with one crucial difference—the right of survivorship.
When a property is owned by joint tenancy with right of survivorship, then the property passes to the surviving owner or owners upon the death of an owner. If unmarried individuals wish to hold property with rights of survivorship, the creating instrument, typically the deed, must explicitly provide for survivorship rights. If the intent to create a joint tenancy with right of survivorship is not clear, the law presumes that the owners are tenants in common.
- With both Tenants in Common and Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship, the ownership percentage should be set out in the creating instrument or it is presumed to be in equal shares.
Before deciding which type of joint ownership is best for you, it is wise to speak with an experienced real estate attorney. The lawyers at Perry, Bundy, Plyler & Long have a combined 90 years of experience assisting Union County families with all of their real estate needs.