What Is Joint?

Joint is a legal term describing a transaction or agreement where two or more parties act in unison.

Key Takeaways

  • Joint refers to transactions involving two or more parties.
  • Joint can also refer to liability such as when two people share a debt.
  • Joint is used in many situations ranging from joint accounts to joint ventures.

Understanding Joint

In addition to pertaining to accounts or ownership in real property, joint can also refer to liability. Joint liability exists in situations where two or more people share the burden of a debt. For example, if a husband and wife have joint liability for a debt, each is responsible for the entire amount of the debt. Several liability, on the other hand, would limit liability to each person's respective obligations.

Examples of Joint

Joint, as a term, can be used in a variety of situations, including: 

  • joint accounts, where two or more parties share a single account, such as a bank or brokerage account. In this case, the law considers both parties to be equal owners, no matter who started the account or who contributes more money. Co-owners can spend or transfer funds to other accounts without the consent of the other account holder. Most joint accounts have rights of survivorship, which means that if one account holder dies, the other will automatically retain rights to the account funds.
  • joint tenancies, where two or more parties share equal shares of ownership in property with the same deed at the same time. This type of holding title is most common between husbands and wives and among family members since there are rights of survivorship, similar to joint accounts. This differs from a tenancy in common, whereby tenants may have different shares of ownership, which may be obtained at different times.
  • joint annuities, such as joint and survivor annuities, insurance products that continue regular payments as long as one of the annuitants is alive. A joint and survivor annuity must have two or more annuitants. This is usually a wise choice for married couples who want to guarantee that, in the case of death, the surviving spouse receives regular income for life, though monthly payments are typically reduced by one-third or one-half for the surviving annuitant. 
  • joint ventures, where two unaffiliated companies contribute financial and/or physical assets, as well as personnel, to a new company. Although joint ventures are generally thought of as partnerships, they can take on any legal structure. Corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs) and other business entities can all be involved in joint ventures, the agreements of which take into account: the number of parties involved, the scope in which the joint venture will operate, the terms of each party’s role and contribution, the ownership split, and how the joint ventures will be administered, managed and staffed.