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What Is Joint Tenancy In Utah?

If you don’t think you can afford home ownership on your own, you might want to look into joint ownership property through joint tenancy, which will help you share the costs of living with another individual by sharing ownership with them. If one of you were to die, the other would automatically get what they’d left behind.

This principal brings in the idea of “right of survivorship.” The property you own is divided up equally between you while you’re both alive, with the expectation that all ownership, and all the rights that come with it, will transfer to the remaining individual once one has passed away.

You might wonder, then, if this is really the sort of thing you want to do. But a lot of good can come out of having this agreement in place with whomever you’re living. Still, if there are any disagreements about what’s going to be done between the two parties, it could create problems.

You might want to try and use this situation in place of a will, but this isn’t something you’ll be able to do. A will is something you can write on your own and change, but this needs multiple people to agree to the terms. There’s a possibility for one person to leave the terms, but this must be negotiated.

One thing you will have to worry about is what will happen in terms of taxes if your partner dies and you’re left with the sole ownership of wherever you live. Of course, your situation will depend on the laws in your area, so you should become familiar with them to know what’s in store.

To know whether this option is the best one for you, you’re going to need to do more research on it on your own. Make sure you know everything that will be involved when it comes to legal terms and other issues. Still, if you are comfortable with the idea, it can be worth writing the contract for the long run.

Joint tenancy is a legal term for an arrangement that defines the ownership interests and rights among two or more co-owners of real property. In a joint tenancy, two or more people own property together, each with equal rights and responsibilities. While joint tenancy can apply to personal property, bank and brokerage accounts and business ownership, it’s most used for investments in real estate. When purchasing property, joint tenancy provides all parties with equal rights to and responsibilities for the real estate purchased. Although joint tenants receive the same amount of interest in the property, there are limitations to using their shares. The most critical condition of this type of joint ownership is that it includes the right of survivorship, which precludes co-tenants’ heirs from inheriting their shares of the property.

What Are Ownership Rights?

We tend to think of property ownership in binary terms: You either own it or don’t. But in reality, property ownership rights can take many forms, depending on what rights a person owns. In fact, there are a variety of legally recognized co-ownership arrangements – like tenancy by entirety and tenancy in common – but joint tenancy is by far the most common, because most people who purchase homes together are in fact married or related and wish to pass their property to their joint tenant.

Tenancy in Common

While none of the owners may claim a specific area of the property, tenants in common may have unequal shares and different ownership interests. For instance, Tenant A and Tenant B may each own 25% of the home, while Tenant C owns 50%. Tenancies in common also may be obtained at different times, so an individual may get an interest in the property years after one or more other individuals have entered into a tenancy in common ownership.

Joint Tenancy

Joint tenants, on the other hand, must obtain equal shares of the property with the same deed, at the same time. The terms of either a joint tenancy or tenancy in common are outlined in the deed, title, or other legally binding property ownership document. The default ownership for married couples is joint tenancy in some states, and tenancy in common in others

Terminating Joint Tenancy vs. Tenancy in Common

A joint tenancy can be broken if one of the co-owners transfers or sells his or her interest to another person, thus changing the ownership arrangement to a tenancy in common for all parties.

A tenancy in common can be broken if one of the following occurs:

  • One or more co-tenants buys out the others
  • The property is sold and the proceeds distributed amongst the owners
  • A partition action is filed, which allows an heir to sell his or her stake. At this point, former tenants in common can choose to enter into a joint tenancy via written instrument if they so desire.

This type of holding title is most common between husbands and wives and among family members in general since it allows the property to pass to the survivors without going through probate (saving time and money).

Right of Survivorship

One of the main differences between the two types of shared ownership is what happens to the property when one of the owners dies. When a property is owned by joint tenants, the interest of a deceased owner gets transferred to the remaining surviving owners. For example, if three joint tenants own a house and one of them dies, the two remaining tenants each obtain a one-half share of the property. This is called the right of survivorship. Tenants in common have no rights of survivorship. Unless the deceased owner’s will or other instrument specifies that their interest in the property is to be divided among the surviving owners, a deceased person’s interest belongs to the estate.

Benefits Of Joint Tenancy

The joint tenancy provides a more accessible entry into homeownership for first-time home buyers and those interested in investing in real estate.


The most significant benefit of joint tenancy is that it makes homeownership more affordable. Joint tenancy enables co-tenants to split the down payment and provides them with an advantage when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage.


Joint tenancy also ensures that co-owners can share all responsibilities for paying off debts, maintaining and improving the property and renting it out (if the property is used to generate rental income). The fact that co-tenants possess equal shares of the property gives every party incentive to do their part to protect their investment.


Since joint tenancy includes the rights of survivorship, co-tenants also benefit from the ability to avoid probate, the lengthy legal process that the court system uses to validate wills. Instead of going through probate, the surviving co-tenant(s) has immediate access to their shares of the property regardless of whether the deceased owner had written out a will.

Drawbacks Of Joint Tenancy

The rigid conditions of joint tenancy may protect you if your co-tenant(s) attempts to take advantage of your investment. Still, those same conditions can make it challenging for you as well.

Added Responsibility

If a co-owner loses their job or runs into financial difficulties, the other parties involved in the agreement are responsible for continuing to make all mortgage payments and preventing the property from going into default.

Relationship Strains

If a change occurs in the relationship between joint tenants, difficulties can also arise. Since all decisions regarding the property must be made jointly, it can be challenging to navigate disagreements. No one can sell the property or their shares of the property without the express permission of all other co-tenants. And, with the rights of survivorship, it is only the last living co-tenant who can pass the asset onto their heirs. Although some married couples choose to hold property titles as tenants by the entirety – a type of title that provides each spouse with full interest in the property – couples who decide to hold joint tenancy titles can run into issues if their marriage dissolves. Joint tenancy can add tension to legal battles, and regardless of whether the couple chooses to undergo divorce, each spouse will still be held accountable for all debts until the person who gets the house refinances.

Although some married couples choose to hold property titles as tenants by entirety – a type of title that provides each spouse with full interest in the property – couples who decide to hold joint tenancy titles can run into issues if their marriage dissolves. Joint tenancy can add tension to legal battles, and regardless of whether the couple chooses to undergo divorce, each spouse will still be held accountable for all debts.

Avoiding Probate in Utah

Living trusts

In Utah, you can make a living trust to avoid probate for virtually any asset you own—real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and so on. You need to create a trust document (it’s similar to a will), naming someone to take over as trustee after your death (called a successor trustee). Then—and this is crucial—you must transfer ownership of your property to yourself as the trustee of the trust. Once all that’s done, the property will be controlled by the terms of the trust. At your death, your successor trustee will be able to transfer it to the trust beneficiaries without probate court proceedings.

Joint ownership

If you own property jointly with someone else, and this ownership includes the “right of survivorship,” then the surviving owner automatically owns the property when the other owner dies. No probate will be necessary to transfer the property, although of course it will take some paperwork to show that title to the property is held solely by the surviving owner. In Utah, you can own property as joint tenants with the right of survivorship. Property owned in joint tenancy automatically passes to the surviving owners when one owner dies. No probate is necessary. Joint tenancy often works well when couples (married or not) acquire real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, or other valuable property together. In Utah, each owner, called a joint tenant, must own an equal share.

Payable-on-death designations for bank accounts

In Utah, you can add a “payable-on-death” (POD) designation to bank accounts such as savings accounts or certificates of deposit. You still control all the money in the account—your POD beneficiary has no rights to the money, and you can spend it all if you want. At your death, the beneficiary can claim the money directly from the bank, without probate court proceedings.

Transfer-on-death registration for securities

Utah lets you register stocks and bonds in transfer-on-death (TOD) form. People commonly hold brokerage accounts this way. If you register an account in TOD (also called beneficiary) form, the beneficiary you name will inherit the account automatically at your death. No probate court proceedings will be necessary; the beneficiary will deal directly with the brokerage company to transfer the account.

Transfer-on-death deeds for real estate

Utah now allows you to leave real estate with transfer-on-death deeds, also called beneficiary deeds. You sign and record the deed now, but it doesn’t take effect until your death. You can revoke the deed or sell the property at any time; the beneficiary you name on the deed has no rights until your death.

Transfer-on-death registration for vehicles

Utah does not allow transfer-on-death registration of vehicles.

What kind of deed do I want to give when selling property?

A deed is a legal document which conveys ownership to real property. To transfer ownership of the real property to another, the owner/Grantor must execute a new deed identifying the property and the Grantee/buyer of the property. To be valid between the Grantor and the Grantee, the deed is not required to be recorded. To be valid against the world, and to protect the Grantee, a deed must be recorded in the records of the County where the property is located. Hence, you should always record the deed. One condition of a valid transfer often ignored is that the deed must actually be delivered to the Grantee to be a valid conveyance. There are many different types of deeds all of which convey different legal rights. Some of the more common are:

Warranty Deed

A Warranty Deed is a deed that transfers all of the Grantor’s rights in the property to a Grantee. In granting a Warranty Deed the Grantor is warranting that they have good title free and clear of all encumbrances. The warranty also requires the Grantor to defend the Grantee against all claims made by third parties claiming an interest in the property. A Warranty Deed is the most common deed used in the purchase and sale of real property between unrelated parties. If you are buying real estate, you should insist on receiving a Warranty Deed.

 Limited Warranty Deed

A Limited Warranty deed is deed that only warrants the title for the limited time in which the seller owned the property. In other words, a Limited Warranty Deed is a deed in which the property transferred is warranted to be free of all liens and encumbrances made by or through the Grantor, but not otherwise. In some states, a Limited Warranty Deed is referred to as a Special Warranty Deed. The warranty provided with a Limited Warranty Deed is much more limited in scope than the warranty provided in a Warranty Deed. Therefore, if you are selling property you should try to only provide a Limited Warranty Deed to limit your potential liability.

Quitclaim Deed

A Quitclaim Deed is a deed that transfers to a Grantee whatever claim or interest in the property that may be held by the Grantor. The Grantor of the deed makes no warranties regarding the quality of their interest in the property or even if they have any interest at all. Specifically, in a Quit Claim deed, no warranty is provided regarding liens, encumbrances or other claims against the property. A Quitclaim Deed is most often used in gift transactions, transfers to as spouse, or transfers to an entity owned by the Grantor. But they are also very common as part of a divorce settlement. Often a Quitclaim Deed is referred to by the misnomer “Quick claim deed”.


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