Real estate ownership

In Pennsylvania, there are several ways that real property (i.e. houses) may be titled. When two or more people own property together, they should be aware of the manner in which the property is owned:

Tenants in Common – When property is owned as tenants in common, each owner owns a certain percentage of the property. Usually, this ownership is equally divided, but can be altered on the deed itself. If you own real estate in this manner, you can do as you please with your share. For example, you can sell your interest in the property, or you can leave it to a friend or family member in your will. When you pass away, your share is distributed though the probate process, and not necessarily to the owners who survive you. Even though all owners own a percentage of the property, they all have the right to enjoyment and possession of the property.

Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship – When property is owned this way, all owners have the right to enjoyment and possession of the property. However the property passes directly to the survivor(s) upon the death of one of the owners. The owners may not sell or gift their portion of the property without consent of the other owners.

Tenants by the Entirety – This is the similar to Joint Tenants, except that the owners must be married to each other. This form of ownership may be dissolved upon death or divorce of either spouse. If it is due to divorce, the ownership reverts to Tenants in Common.