What Is a Joint Tenant Account?

What Is a Joint Tenant Account?
••• Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

When you hear the word “tenant,” you probably think of a renter. However, in legal terms, tenant can refer to something entirely different. When looking at estate law, joint tenancy is a term that refers to property ownership. If you are considering an acquisition, learning about joint tenancy may help you keep your financial affairs in order.

Joint Tenancy

Joint tenancy is a term used in estate law. This term refers to a special type of ownership where two or more individuals own the same property. Each individual, referred to as joint tenants, have an equal and undivided right to the property owned. Joint tenancy has a right of survivorship. This means that if one of the joint tenants dies, his ownership of the property passes to the other joint tenants. Almost any type of property can be held in joint tenancy.

Joint Tenancy Account

A joint tenancy account refers to a bank account that is held and owned equally by two or more individuals. In many situations, this type of account is held by a husband and wife jointly. Business partners may also hold bank accounts in joint tenancy. Usually, either party has the right to withdraw the full amount of the account at any time. This depends on the way the account agreement is written. Joint tenancy accounts also have a right of survivorship, so the full amount of the account goes to the surviving spouse or partner when one spouse or partner dies.


Tenancy in common is another legal term that is often confused with joint tenancy. With a tenancy in common, two or more individuals equally own an asset. However, there is no right of survivorship with a tenancy in common. Therefore, if one of the owners dies, his portion of ownership does not pass to the other owners. Instead, his portion is distributed according to his last will and testament. If there is no will, then the portion of ownership is distributed according to the law of heirs in the deceased’s state of residence.


Joint tenancy accounts prove a convenient choice in many business and spousal relationships. However, they require trust amongst co-owners. With a joint tenancy bank account, any of the co-owners can withdraw the full amount at any time. Also, if one of the co-owners is sued, the account is subject to a full loss in a lawsuit. Entering into a joint tenancy requires some prior consideration due to these risk factors.