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What is Joint Ownership?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Joint ownership refers to two parties owning property together. Property in this sense may apply to a residence, a business, or intellectual property like patents. Joint ownership can be beneficial if one partner dies, as property does not have to go through probate. It can also be problematic, particularly in the area of intellectual property, or property jointly owned by a parent and a child.

Joint ownership is most often applied in the real estate market, where it refers to two people who jointly own a home. In most cases, these two people are a married couple. This type of joint ownership can reduce hassle. It is not necessary for a person to wait for probate in order to own the whole house if his or her spouse dies.

A married couple may own a home is a joint ownership.
A married couple may own a home is a joint ownership.

When a spouse dies, it may be necessary to restructure finances immediately. Being able to completely own one’s home immediately assures an easy transfer of assets. Additionally, in many states, a house owned by a married couple, where one partner dies, is not considered an addition of property to the surviving owner, so no taxes are assessed to sole ownership.

Joint ownership implies certain rights to both parties.
Joint ownership implies certain rights to both parties.

Joint ownership can also simplify division of assets in a divorce. Anything that is owned jointly is split. One person can chose to buy out the other’s person’s half, but it is very difficult to contest rights to property when it is jointly owned. Couples may barter their ownership status for access to other portions of the estate, but at least a property that is jointly owned eliminates arguments about the extent to which each partner is entitled to the property.

Siblings may inherit property jointly upon their parents' death.
Siblings may inherit property jointly upon their parents' death.

Joint ownership of property is not limited to spouses. A parent can decide to jointly own his or her house with a child. When the child is financially stable and an only child, this may make good sense, since that child will not require probate to inherit the house. Most realtors and financial advisors, however, caution against joint ownership with a child.

Joint ownership is often taken on by a married couple.
Joint ownership is often taken on by a married couple.

Several concerns come to light immediately. If a parent has joint ownership of a house with one child and there are other siblings, the parent may request that the proceeds of the house be evenly divided between siblings upon the parent’s death. Joint ownership overrides the obligation for the child who jointly owns the house to honor this request. Since parent and child jointly own the house, the house immediately passes to the surviving owner upon the parent's death. Other siblings may never receive whatever entitlements to the house their parents might have desired for them.

Joint ownership can simply the division of assets in the event of a divorce.
Joint ownership can simply the division of assets in the event of a divorce.

Joint ownership can also cause problems if the financial prospects of the child are unstable. If, for example, the child enters bankruptcy or owes back taxes, a parent can lose his or her home when creditors collect owed funds. If the child is uninsured and hospitalized, the same can occur. The child’s future in regards to the house is also at issue if the parent becomes seriously ill or is at financial risk.

Joint ownership of businesses or intellectual property implies certain rights to both parties, and as such may require extensive drafting of legal documents to avoid pitfalls. For example, if a patent is jointly owned, either partner may sell the patent, permit the use of the patent, or release information about the patent without the agreement of the other partner. This violates the whole concept of a patent, in many respects, since the goal of a patent is to keep other manufacturers from producing the same product. To protect both partners, it is necessary to draw up binding legal agreements that prohibit this and other behaviors that could reduce the profitability of the patent.

Further, once one partner dies, the other partner fully owns the patent. The deceased partner’s family has no right to inherit any profits associated with the patent after the partner’s death, because the profits do not belong to them. To reduce these risks, partners may want to consider alternative methods of owning a patent with which inheritance to other family members is ensured.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent MyLawQuestions contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent MyLawQuestions contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


We became part owners of the family home eight years ago. Our co owner is my husband's brother, who, I may add, only pays a minimal payment towards his board, has never paid a mortgage, electric bill, etc. However, he has left the property and has been gone for six weeks. What advice can you give us about what we can do legally?


My mother bought a home for my brother two years ago, with the understanding he would repay her. He has never repaid her a dime. She said he signed a first mortgage with her (this was not done through a lawyer) so that if anything was to happen to her that he would have to give me half of the amount she paid for the house.

A few months ago, a lien was put on the property for him not paying child support. I know he can't sell the house without first paying back the lien. But does his signature on a so-called first mortgage that my mom made him sign have any legal standing?


My ex-partner (we never married) and I purchased a home in mid 2006, she left in late 2007. She only paid $1k of the down payment, as she had no job no income. I paid every monthly mortgage. Now, the house is paid off, me paying 98 percent of the mortgage. I married in 2009 to my current partner.

Since she left in 2007, I have not heard from her, nor do I think she is even in Canada anymore.

Both names are on the deed and was on mortgage. All payments clearly show I made all the payments and fees to purchase, taxes, fines (yes fines too) and upkeep.

The other owner is still missing has been about 6 years now. I want to sell this house, as it is not my primary residence. How do I sell the house when the partner is nowhere to be found for such a long period? Please help.


My parents have property together. My dad passed, but they had moved to another state. My mom went to take dad's name off and was told it had to be done in state my dad died in. The attorney in state other than where the property is, says that is not true. It is going on two years since dad passed. How do I get this resolved without having to pay an attorney? Is there a statute of limitations?


I was in a relationship owning a property and when the relationship ended the real trouble began. I had a gift letter from the other person, that clearly stated the "gift" money used for purchasing the property did not imply they were to benefit from the purchase.

Bottom line was I was sued for the equity, since a requirement of the gift was to put them on the deed, so they were awarded half of everything. I bought them out and now have a mortgage that is underwater by $140,000. I've struggled for years now to hold my own and they walked away with a hefty paycheck. Would this be considered blackmail since from the beginning they were in this for the money?


@anon261793: If there was a will, I *think* it has to be probated to be legal. Contact the probate judge in your county to check on this. They can also tell you if the will has been probated or not.

If the property was solely in her name, then it was hers to bequeath as she wished.

This sounds like a matter for an estate attorney.


My mother died in 2005. She married my stepfather 11 months before she died, after being with him 35 years. The mobile home and property were in her name and paid for before she died. I never to this day have seen a will or anything.

She and my daughter drew up papers without my knowledge and two weeks before she died, my daughter came to me and told me that she and my stepfather did a new will. But both times the will or whatever they were, were just notarized. I still have not seen the will, nor do I know if it was probated. Do I have any rights being my mother's only child? My daughter and stepfather have sold the mobile home without my knowledge. What can I do?


If a real estate property is owned by a parent and one (who resides at the property) of two children with a stipulation in the will that the property be divided equally between the two children upon that parents' death, how can the second child obtain their inheritance if "resident" child refuses to even acknowledge phone calls?

The "resident" child was present when will was drawn up (at that same time his name was added to the deed) and is fully aware of the parents wishes.


If my parents and I bought a house together, and I live in it but we are both listed on the title deed of the property, who is considered the owner?


I am currently being sued in an Ontario small claims court by a former landlord for damages concerning the rental property during my tenancy. The plaintiff (my former landlord) has sworn under oath, that he is the sole owner of the house, but I have found out that his parents are also listed on the title deed as co-owners. Should they have been listed on the original claim as a plaintiff? Can I have the case thrown out because of this?


I bought a vehicle for my 17 year old son, yet an adult had to be on the title with him. So I put my friend's name as the joint owner, and now he is trying to steal the car, but he never paid a dime on it to buy it or pay registration or insurance. I'm on the registration with my son and I hold the insurance. What can I do legally to get his name off the title?


My husband is buying a house. Would that be joint ownership if we had not been living with each other for over a year.


I entered into a partnership six months ago without a written agreement. My partner said he would invest the same amount as I did, but has not. I have invested two thirds and my partner invested one third. By law, would the business be split by the amount invested?


My sister and I inherited a condo in Las Vegas. She will not involve herself with any of the work and wants just to sell or have me buy her out.Can I lease it without her consent to keep property in good standing and pay the bills with the rent?

She will only accept top dollar from me and will not sign a lease agreement?


I really need your help. My parents bought a home in the Caribbean and both agreed to pay for it, but now only my mom is paying. What can we do to get my dad off the property? I heard about a buyout. How does that work? I really need help. This is hard on her.


My sister and I own a home equally that was left to us by our father. Neither of us live in the house, but we both share on paying the taxes. My sister has recently leased out the home without my consent, or supplying me a copy of the lease. She is collecting rent and not offering to share the income. What is my recourse, if any?

I have offered to sell her the home at half the tax value, but she wants me to reduce the selling price since it is in need of repairs. These are repairs that were incurred by her when she lived in the home after our father died.


Sorry if someone already answered this. When I was of age my mother bought a time share and made a co-owner, thinking it would be good for me as an adult. Now that she is older she can no longer afford the maintenance fees on her fixed income, and has been desperately trying to get rid of it. Of course the resort is no help and has taken non refundable money saying they will sell. Now over two years later, it has seriously affected her finances and I am still school so I can't afford much.

First, is there a way to get my name off the property so that my credit will not be hurt, and second, how can I help my mother get rid of this timeshare before she goes bankrupt? She is still paying the mortgage which makes it harder. Any advice would be great.


Not long after my husband died, my son kindly offered to pay the final $6000 on the mortgage that Mal and i had on the home. I said that's kind of you but i will cope somehow. Tim said that he wanted and needed to pay it as Dad had confided in him of his worry about it, and also for his love and thanks also to me. Tim insisted that i not pay him back as i had done so much for him in his life.

Now in 2011 he is saying that he paid the house off, and i cannot sell the house or access any of the value in the home via a loan or a small mortgage, etc. on the home. Because the home and the furniture, etc. in it belongs to himself and his brother and sister, that it is their inheritance and that is theft.

I'm nearly 60 years old and I'm sorry i accepted his help. I will slowly pay him back out of my small pension, but i believe that the home is in my name.

I worked very hard for many years to pay for the house and property with my darling. I went without except for the basics all those 20 odd years and that my parents did have the right to use what little i have only was needed in life, and at the end of my days then whatever is left, that is the children's inheritance. Please would you advise me, for i have been extremely generous to my children and grandchildren. Could you advise me?


my boyfriend of 10 years and i opened a business together where i work six days a week, but it is totally in his name do i have any rights? desperate for an answer.


i lost my mom when i was 12, then lost my dad when i was 13. my aunt took me in but never really explained to me what the situation was. i am 21 years old now. they couldn't sell our old house till i turned 18, but people moved in even before i turned 18.


My wife and i split up four years ago. my son was taken away from me without consulting me and disappeared.

We have a joint mortgage together which she left four years ago. I struggle to keep up repayment and house expenses, now, she is claiming to re-sell the house and split the money. Please help. What should i do? we are still in the divorce process.


My mother added me as co- owner of her mobile home that has been paid off for years now. The land that the mobile home is on is legally passed to me when she passes away. Do I have the right to move in with her right now?


We own a timeshare property with my brother's wife. If she claims bankruptcy before she has her name removed from the deed will we lose our timeshare? What can we do to protect ourselves?


if a property is in both parties' names but they are now living separately and one wants to sell and move on, what would the legal position be if the other person refused to sell?


My father and I have joint ownership of a house. There are four other siblings who are quite wealthy. I am looking after my father and his wishes are that I have the house.

The siblings have nothing to do with their father. My one brother sent me an e-mail stating that he was "coming after me." He calls me bleeping loonie, save some money, I'm coming. Should I be concerned?


i am the administrator of my fathers estate in New York state. my siblings and i inherited oil and gas rights in the state of Montana. As i kept and had sole care of my father for the last four years of his life, my siblings all agreed to sign off their rights and signed notarized statements to that effect. will these statements hold up in court?


Upon buying my home, i did not understand the repercussions of having joint ownership with my 19 year old granddaughter. she lost her job the same month the escrow went through. i pay the mortgage and she lives here at no cost to her. how can one get around this. it's been two years now.


I plan on giving an old "clunker car" to my son and his new wife. Should I advise them to own it jointly? It's old and crappy but may live for 10 more years. I don't want either of them to have hassles if anything should happen to either of them. Thoughts?


My ex and I jointly own a property together and we owe $235,000 on the property mortgage and have a $5000 credit card in joint names. The property value is $400,000. We are currently both paying half each of these debts. My ex wants to be bought out of the property.

My current boyfriend wants to buy into the property, he is a self-employed electrician (he has been self employed for five years, and has been a part owner of a property in the past but he is currently renting). He turns over about $65,000 - $75,000 per year, he does not have any savings for a deposit and I am currently working for him on a subcontract basis earning $500 per week. On my last tax return, my taxable income was $21,000. My boyfriend has not done a tax return for three years, but I am currently preparing paperwork for his accountant.

Do we have the ability to borrow the funds necessary to pay out my ex?

I need to find out ASAP as I am pregnant and if we would not be able to borrow the funds required to pay out my ex, I will need to terminate the pregnancy and return to full-time employment in order to borrow the funds necessary to pay out my ex. Please help!


I am currently buying a property with my boyfriend on a buy to let mortgage, joint ownership, he has children of his own and wants to leave the house to his children, but i am unsure of this as what will happen to my half if they want to sell, etc.? Some advice please. Many thanks, Lucy


If my partner (we are not married nor are we a common law marriage) is taken away because of Child Protective Services because of abuse towards my son, and my partner has his name on the deed, what are my rights to the property?


#23 duh, that is exactly what it means. If you relinquish your rights to something then you give up your rights to something. If you do so for free then that is what your selling your portion of the house for.

The brother is trying to scam you all. The house can be sold to the buyer if you all sign the agreement to sell the house to the new owner. Then legally a portion of that money is yours.

Your brother knows this. He doesn't want to share the money. He wants to convince you the only way to sell the house is if only one person has the rights.

Essentially, he wants you to give him what is rightfully yours.


Me and my brother have both owned a house for the last two years. I'm paying the mortgage but my brother is not paying anything. now i want to sell this house but he will not agree to sign on the selling authority papers. what should i do now because i have no job now. please help me anyone.


My mom and dad own a home together but only his name is on the deed. Will she automatically assume ownership if he dies?


I and four others own a camp, that was passed down to us 12 years ago. I have 1 brother that has never paid for the taxes or insurance or up keep. Four of us want to sell, but he is not willing. Has not been around the family in years. We want to move on with our lives, is there any partition we can file to sell the property with out him.


I own a house with my ex and he has said he has changed the locks and has not provided me with a key. I'm not sure if he has done this or not as it's in another State. But isn't there some paper I can get to force him to provide me with a key. I am an owner and can prove it.


My wife and I jointly financed a 2nd home with my parents.

my parents have now fallen victim to the great recession and cannot avoid bankruptcy. my wife and I have picked up the payments for the last 10 months.

with recent decline in home values, it's likely that selling the property will not return any cash to the bankruptcy trustee.

are we better off having my parents "give up" their primary residence and use the bankruptcy to "protect" this joint property?


I wonder if you can help. I have a joint ownership of the property with my ex-partner.

I said I can move out provided she pays me half of the rent I would have been otherwise entitled if we rent to a third party.

She hasn't been paying me, hasn't been paying insurance, didn't go for the court order for occupancy, instead she trespassed me off Te property. All the lawyers say it's illegal. I now have to move back in as I have nowhere else to live.

I can take things to the family court, however she has been denying relationship. I will need to, in any case, proceed in the family court, as otherwise I am left with all the debts. But this may take a long time as I have to prove the relationship.

What can I do in the meantime?

The police do not want to remove the trespass notice. Can I just go there and risk being arrested and then defend myself or can I in this situation demand equal rights and have a trespass notice served on her too, so we both stay out of the property and have to rent to the third party? help.


My 93 year old mother died recently. My brother, the executor of the estate, put the house up for sale without input from us regarding house sale price.

Now he has trouble getting the deed since my mother listed all six of us as owning the home. He tells us that we need to sign legal documents relinquishing all our rights to the home and that a new deed will be drawn up. There is a pending buyer.

If a new deed is drawn up in my brother's name, can we be forced out of our equal share, which my mother intended? The prospective buyer has several weeks to buy the house or it goes back on the market.


My ex fiance and I purchased a house in May 2008. I moved out in Feb 09. She still resides there and she makes the payment. In the court of law, can they make me sign the property over to her, or do I have control of my signature?


My husband and I own our house jointly and in a case of a divorce does the property get split in half. I need to know this because I am planning on divorcing him in the next two years. What happens if he doesn't have the money to pay me off? Please advise. thank you


My husband and his brother bought me and my sister-in-law a summer home about 8 years ago, The house is only in my husband's and brother-in-laws name. now my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are in a nasty divorce. I want to sell but the men don't. who has ownership of the house? only the brothers or do the wives get 1/4 in a divorce? I want this over. it's too much drama.


I currently own a property with my sister and brother and wish to sell my third to a third party. My siblings are against this. is it possible for me to carry on with the sale?


I bought a home together with my boyfriend a year ago. He moved out a month later but continues to pay the mortgage since we had kids together and we had agreed that I take care of their living expenses while he pays the mortgage. We sold the home to his company a year later with the intention of buying a new one but things didn't work out and he is refusing to give me my share of the equity. What are my legal options?


If two people own cemetery lots together and they are listed on the deed as example, Jane Smith *and* Jhn Smith, can one of them give away lots to others without the other person's consent when they were intended for the wife, husband and two children? (4 plots)


If two siblings inherit and become co-owners (with each having undivided half interest) of a summer cabin and only one of the siblings pays the taxes but the other sibling feels he can still use the cabin anytime he wants, is there any recourse for the sibling who is the paying taxes?


i want to buy a house from my father-in-law, but the house is on his name and his ex-wife's name. she is now deceased. does the house now belong to him or does half of the home belong the the ex-wife's children. I need to know if I can purchase the house from him or if I have to go through the children as well.


Can joint ownership of real estate be among 3 parties or does it only have to be two? Also, is setting up joint ownership as easy as changing the names on the deed, with no tax implications until the sale?


Can a joint ownership of a property in CA by a husband and wife be dissolved by one and sold to a third party? My husband and I are separated and I want to get away from the situation and use my share to start over. Thanks.


I have a home that owned by myself and my boyfriend ! It's in default (90) days. Does he have right to the property if they try to foreclose ?


I need some help. Im a co-owner of property in West Virginia with my girfriend. With her permission I want to remove her name from the Deed.


I am on the deeds to my father's house in the UK. I am an only child. He wants me to take my name off the deeds so that he can get equity out of the house and I will not agree to this. He now says he is going to take me out of the will and I will not get anything as he will leave it all to my daughter that I have not seen in 20 years. If my name is on the deeds, then surely if he dies, the house becomes mine anyway? Anyone know the answer to this?


My brother in law and I bought a property with an agreed percentage of 30/70 where i got 30% share of it. I have paid my share in cash while he had his share in mortgage (using the 30% cash i have as down payment). Currently, my brother in law can't afford paying his mortgage and would like me to help him out on this which i am reluctant on doing as i am in financial difficulty as well. The property is under his name and we have yet to put a legal document in place stating such ownership share. What options do i have to secure the investment that i have?


HI..My mother and I have joint ownership of our home. She had a heart attack last week. She is 96. I don't know whether I will be trying to place her in a permanent care facility as yet, I am waiting to see how she will be in the next two weeks. What I want to know is, I am in Australia, Certain aged care facilities need a lump sum payment from the person moving in the care unit. Does that mean we have to sell the home to pay this lump payment? Any advice would be much appreciated. She does not have any savings. thank you


I own a home that is in joint ownership with my son I had his name put on my deed. My son has passed away. I want to know if i move into said house and designate it as my principle residence,. If and when I decide to sell it will I have to pay capital gains tax on it? How long does it have to be my principle res? I had it designated as his principle residence as I had another house that I lived in and it was my principle residence.


Family feud: My father in law and his son own a cabin. He has 1/3rd ownership and wants to sell his share to me and my wife. Can the son stop him? The son has no means of paying expenses, has not for 5 years. - won't work and could not buy the father out. The father is 83 and wants money to enjoy life.


Two parties own a property together. If one party wants to sell and the other party doesn't, what recourse does the party that wants to sell have?


My residence is owned by my husband and I. How do I know if it's joint ownership. He has children outside of our marriage and I am worried that if he dies these children will come looking for their inheritance. These children are adults. Thank you.


I am really interested in the answers to the last anonymous letter. I am in canada and would like to know whether the same rules apply here. Is there any tax problems with a parent and child owning a residence jointly, if the parent dies? When the parent dies the property is automatically the child's, correct? Does the child have to claim any capital gains if the property is sold?

If you have any knowledge in this area i would love to hear from you.



If a real estate property is owned jointly by a parent and one of 5 children with the intention that the proceeds of this property will be and are divided equally among the 5 children when the parent dies what is the tax liability on the sale of the property? In other words what portion of the basis is adjusted at the time of the parents death? We have received several answers, from the entire property is transferred to the one child with no basis adjustment, to half basis adjustment to full basis adjustment. The state is Maryland.


If siblings are joint owners of a summer cabin and only one of the siblings pays the taxes and pays for maintenance and uses the cabin is the other sibling in danger of losing his ownership?

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    • A married couple may own a home is a joint ownership.
      By: Andy Dean
      A married couple may own a home is a joint ownership.
    • Joint ownership implies certain rights to both parties.
      By: FotolEdhar
      Joint ownership implies certain rights to both parties.
    • Siblings may inherit property jointly upon their parents' death.
      By: svetamart
      Siblings may inherit property jointly upon their parents' death.
    • Joint ownership is often taken on by a married couple.
      By: Ferrante Pietro
      Joint ownership is often taken on by a married couple.
    • Joint ownership can simply the division of assets in the event of a divorce.
      By: mast3r
      Joint ownership can simply the division of assets in the event of a divorce.