Joint Owned Property: Definition, How It Works, Risks

What Is Joint Owned Property?

Joint owned property is any property held in the name of two or more parties. These two parties could business partners or another combination of people who have a reason to own property together. The matrimonial status of joint ownership of assets is when the two parties are husband and wife.

Joint owned property may be held in one of several legal forms, including joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety, community property, or in a trust.

Key Takeaways

  • Joint owned property is any property held in the name of two or more parties, like husband and wife, or business partners, friends, or family members.
  • The risks of joint owned property are the potential for financial issues with partial ownership of a property, like one party wanting to sell their share.
  • A joint owned property can be manifest in legal forms, such as joint tenancy, meaning two or more property holders each have equal rights and obligations to the property until their death.

How Joint Owned Property Works

As noted above, a joint owned property may be held in legal forms, such as joint tenancy. This is when two or more people have equal rights and obligations to the property they rent or own together until one partner passes away.

At this time, the owner's interest passes to the survivors without probate. Tenancy by the entirety, another joint-owned property option, is when the parties are husband and wife. In this case, each spouse has an equal and undivided interest in the property. If one spouse dies, the full title of the property automatically passes to the surviving spouse.

Two additional forms of jointly owned property, community property, and trust, also have distinct features. A spouse can acquire community property (marital property) during a marriage. This property, such as a rental unit, legally belongs to both partners.

As of March 2021, U.S. states with community property laws included Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Also, Guam and Puerto Rico have community-property legislation, and Alaska's law is optional.

For tax purposes, each spouse may claim half of the total income earned from community property. Finally, in a living trust, spouses may create a joint option in which both individuals are grantors and trustees. They may place individually or joint-owned assets in these trusts. Either person may revoke the trust during their lifetime.

Choosing the best form of ownership for joint property can simplify things if one of the owners passes away. Joint tenancy is commonly used to avoid probate, a lengthy, costly, and public process of distributing the deceased's assets in court.

Risks of Joint Owned Property

Joint or jointly-owned property does not come without its risks. Although later in life, individuals often desire to add others names' to the title of their property as a means of estate planning without attorney fees, this can bring added risks of embezzlement.

For example, if an elderly individual is in cognitive decline, they might succumb to adding a friend or relation to a joint bank account. The individual will then have full withdrawal rights. In addition, once an individual adds another’s name to the title of a piece of property, this act is typically final and cannot be undone. However, there are certain exceptions that can be pursued through the courts, such as in the case of fraud or financial exploitation of those deemed to be legally incompetent.

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.