A joint tenancy is a concurrent estate in which two or more persons have an undivided interest in the same property. In California, joint tenancies must be created via the same instrument, usually by deed or by will; each owner must also receive the same or equal interest in the entire property. Joint tenants receive all the same rights. Joint tenancies often include a right of survivorship, meaning when one tenant dies the others receive the deceased owner's share.
Concurrent Estates in California
Joint tenancies, tenancies in common and tenancies in the entirety are all concurrent estates. California does not recognize tenancies in the entirety; however, it does recognize joint tenancies and tenancies in common. Pursuant to California's Civil Code Section 682.1, married couples may pass community property to each other as community property with right of survivorship through a transfer document. In California, surviving spouses with right of survivorship agreements are able to avoid the probate process altogether.
Duties of Joint Tenants
Joint tenants have undivided interests in the whole property. This means all tenants have the right to possession of the entire property. If joint tenants refuse entry to another joint tenant, the "ousted" tenant can sue the others for damages. If one tenant rents part of the property to a third party, the other joint tenants are entitled to an accounting of rents/profits.
Right of Survivorship
Joint tenancies are different from tenancies in common because they include the right of survivorship. Tenants in common are allowed to leave their interest to any heirs they choose. However, joint tenants are not allowed to devise their interest to anyone. Upon the death of one joint tenant, the other tenants receive his share equally. Because joint tenancies involve the right of survivorship, grantors are assured that property stays in the family.
Pursuant to California's Civil Code Section 683 (a), a joint interest is presumed when words directly expressing the intent to create a joint tenancy are used in a will or deed. California also allows joint tenancies in personal property; joint tenancies in personal property may be created via a will, transfer document or deed.