Friday, May 19, 2017

Everything you want to know about joint tenancy by Randee McDonald

Cumberland Title loves answering your questions, and there is one that we seem to get quite frequently regarding joint tenancy. Joint tenancy is ownership of a property by two or more people who share it equally. If any one of the joint tenants dies, the remainder of the property is transferred to the survivors. Now, on to the question: 

Does a joint tenant have to give notice to the other joint tenant, if they are selling their half interest? The presumption is that you must give notice to the other joint tenant to transfer your interest. Do you need to give notice to your joint tenant before transferring your interest?

The answer is: No. Now keep in mind, this would be a pretty rare situation. Let’s use my husband, Matthew and I, as examples. We both own property in Windham together as joint tenants. Can Matthew walk into any lawyer’s office and ask that a deed be written from Matthew McDonald to Lady X (his new ‘friend’)? Yup!  Will a lawyer write that deed? Of course - there’s no reason not to. Does Matthew have to tell me that he’s done this? No! Now both Lady X and I will own the property as, tenants in common.

This means, that we own the property together with no rights of survivorship. That is, should Lady X meet a sudden and unexpected (ahem) demise, her share of the property becomes part of her estate and passes on to her heirs

Now why would someone do this? This is where it gets interesting! Now let’s just say that Matthew had a child with Lady X (he DOESN’T!)  And let’s just say, he wanted to break the joint tenancy without telling me. That way, when he dies, his half of the property would go (according to his will) to his child with Lady X. So, Matthew does a deed from himself to another person - an unrelated third party - and then they deed the property right back to Matthew. He has thus broken the joint tenancy and now he and I own the property as, tenants in common. Does he have to tell me that he did any of this?  No, but he’ll sure regret it.  Then when he dies (a sudden and unexpected demise), his half of the property does not go directly to me, but rather it will go to the child with Lady X. Wow!

If you find yourself in such a circumstance - or suspect you will, get in touch with us at Cumberland Title.

Randee and Matthew are the happily-married owners of Cumberland Title Services, with offices in Portland, Brunswick, Lincoln and Windham. Cumberland Title is a Maine-based company serving the entire state with smooth closings.

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