When two or more people own a parcel of real property, the ownership is a form of joint tenancy. Joint tenancy has varying degrees. A joint tenancy with the right of survivorship is different from a tenancy in common. Transferring a joint interest may have an effect on the tenancy as a whole. If a property owner wants to transfer his interest, a deed must be written up. A common deed used is the quitclaim deed.
Tenancy in Common
A tenancy in common arises when two or more people own a parcel of property and there is no right of survivorship. In a tenancy in common, the owners each have the right to use and enjoy the land, each may transfer their property interests when they choose and when they die, their property interests pass to their heirs. If the tenancy is a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, the owners still have equal rights in the use and enjoyment of the land, but the property interest does not pass to the owners' heirs. Instead, the interest passes to the remaining owners of the land.
Definition of Quitclaim Deed
State property laws require that a valid deed be written up in order to legally transfer an interest in real property. When the parties are familiar with each other and know the land well — such as in a transfer between spouses — it is common to use a quitclaim deed to transfer a property interest. Quitclaim deeds only transfer whatever title the grantor (the original owner) had; it contains no other promises or warranties that, for instance, the property is not subject to a tax lien.
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Creating a Tenancy in Common With a Quitclaim Deed
If a parcel of property has one owner, and that owner transfers his interest to two people, a tenancy in common arises, unless the deed specifically states that the transfer includes a right of survivorship. A quitclaim deed might be appropriate if the transfer is made by a father to his multiple children. In this situation, the parties typically know each other and the property well enough to enter into a land transfer that should not require additional protections offered by other types of deeds, such as a general warranty deed.
Converting a Joint Tenancy Into a Tenancy in Common
If the ownership is a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, transferring title to the property may result in a severance of that tenancy. If this happens, the joint tenancy with the right of survivorship ends and a tenancy in common takes its place. If a joint tenant quitclaimed his interest to his brother, for instance, then the joint tenancy with a right of survivorship would end, each tenant would be a tenant in common and the property interests would be able to pass to each owner's heirs when the original owner dies.