Laws regarding property can be confusing. There are several ways to characterize ownership of a property, all with their own advantages and disadvantages. For example, when more than one person owns a home or business, what rules apply if something happens to one of the owners? What about things like bank accounts or investment accounts? If you own anything with another person, it’s critical to know how joint tenancy works in Virginia.
Tenants in Common.
One legal definition for the term ‘tenants’ is:
“An individual who occupies or possesses land or premises by way of a grant of an estate of some type, such as in fee, for life, for years, or at will.” (emphasis added).
“Tenants in common” ownership is presumed unless documents state otherwise. The property does not automatically pass to anyone. Instead, the deceased owner’s Will controls who inherits property. If there’s no valid Will, then Virginia intestacy law governs. Property owned as tenants in common can be equally divided between owners or can owned in percentage.
Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship.
Sometimes a property owner will die, leaving property characterized as a joint tenancy with right of survivorship. In this case, property automatically passes to surviving tenant or tenants. The property does not have to pass through probate, although some paperwork is required.
Tenants by the Entirety.
By Virginia law, this type of property ownership can only be used by a husband and wife. When action is taken with this type of property, both owners must agree. In most cases, a judgment creditor with a claim against one owner cannot take the other owner’s interest in the property. Bank accounts and personal property can be owned as tenancy by the entirety.
More Than Real Estate.
Maybe because the word ‘tenant’ is used, we often think joint tenancy laws only govern real property. Other types of property are affected by joint tenancy status.
Bank accounts, for example, can have joint owners with right of survivorship. Perhaps a parent may add a child as a joint owner so that the bank balance passes directly to the child upon their death. The disadvantage to setting up bank accounts with a joint owner include:
The bank account, or other asset, is open to misuse by the joint owner. Following the parent-child example, the child could empty the bank account without permission. Also, property that’s jointly owned is vulnerable to each owner’s creditors. Mom’s bank account could be taken to satisfy her child’s debts.
Stocks, safe deposit boxes, and personal property may also be jointly owned.
Not Sure About Using Joint Tenancy in Virginia?
The attorneys at the Dillon Law Group, PLC, have the skills and experience to analyze your situation and discuss options that fit your needs. Give us a call at 757-962-4796 to set up an appointment or contact us online by using our convenient Contact Form. We assist clients in Virginia Beach, Newport News, and surrounding communities.