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If the house is paid off and I no longer want to live in it but the joint owner does do I give up any rights by moving out and selling down the road? I want him to be able to stay in the house indefinitely. Both our names are on the title and it reads joint tenants with right of survivorship.

  • Are you both listed on the title to the property? – feetwet Dec 30 '17 at 17:50
  • What exactly does it say on the deed, e.g. does it say JTWROS, tenants in common...? – user6726 Dec 30 '17 at 18:01
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    It says joint tenants with right of survivorship – Cindi Dec 30 '17 at 18:11
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In the case of joint tenants with right of survivorship, each tenant has the rights of unrestricted access, accounting of profits, and the right of contribution for costs (e.g. necessary maintenance, repair, taxes). If one owner improves the property, that does not create an obligation for the other owner to contribute, but the improving co-owner would be liable for losses resulting from “improvement” (and can recover profits). When one owner dies, their interest automatically passes to the surviving owner, and it cannot be willed to someone else.

In California, the co-owner can assign their interest in real estate to another, without consent of the co-owner, and this converts the tenancy to a joint tenancy; this also happens if you use the property as collateral. The exact consequences of joint tenancy with right of survivorship, in terms of transfer of interest, will depend on the state.

Given all that, there is no requirement of occupancy, whereby a person is deprived of their interest and associated rights and responsibilities if they do not occupy the property. You can continue to contribute your portion of taxes, necessary maintenance and repairs, and any other form of liability that results, even if you are not living in the house. Presumably it is clear why one would want to discuss this with one’s attorney.

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  • Thanks for this answer. Does this mean that wills cannot be created before our deaths stating who we want the property to go to? And if there are no wills who would property go to if we died at the same time, say in an accident? – Cindi Dec 30 '17 at 18:59
  • Yes to the first part; and if you both die intestate at the same time, the shares are divided however the law determines, for each of the equal interests. – user6726 Dec 30 '17 at 19:28
  • @Cindi A joint tenancy trumps the will of the first to die co-owner. – ohwilleke Dec 31 '17 at 21:24

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