Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship
In Texas, when two or more people jointly own a piece of real estate, there is a presumption that the ownership is in the form of a tenancy-in-common. When one joint owner under a tenancy-in-common dies, that owner’s interest in the property passes to that owner’s heirs or devisees. The Texas Estates Code does allow that when a piece of real estate is owned by two or more people, the owners may agree in writing that when an owner dies, his or her interest passes to the surviving owner or owners. The only limitation on title passing to the other owner is that the surviving owner must survive the deceased owner by at least 120 hours.
Establishing a Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship is a relatively easy process. If the joint owners know that they want to hold title to the property with the Right of Survivorship, they can ask that the deed that conveys title to them include language to that effect. An example for a married couple would be “John Doe and wife, Jane Doe, as joint owners with rights of survivorship as provided by Texas Estates Code section 112.051, and not as tenants-in-common.” For non-spouses an example might look like John Doe and Jane Doe, as joint owners with rights of survivorship as provided by Texas Estates Code section 111.001, and not as tenants-in-common.” Because the statute indicates that the joint owners must “agree in writing,” it is suggested that the joint owners also sign the deed indicating that they agree and accept the terms stated in the deed.
For property that is already owned by joint owners as tenants-in-common, those owners may execute a separate written agreement that the property is held as Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship. The agreement should contain similar language to the examples above as part of the agreement, and should be signed by the joint owners before a Notary Public. While the statute does not require the agreement to be recorded, recording the agreement in the Real Property Records is the most efficient way to establish that the agreement exists.
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Fidelity National Title, P.C. 1512 Heights Blvd., Houston, TX 77008 (713) 529-8800.