How to Divide Jointly Owned Property

Title Company

Title Company

Many people purchase property together and hold it as joint tenants, which means they each own the whole property equally. While some distinct advantages are obtained with a joint tenancy, sometimes it’s not the best option given the circumstances, such as a failed marriage or business partnership, as a title company professional from a title firm like Capitol Title Insurance Agency, can explain. You can sever the joint tenancy in different ways. The ease of severing the joint tenancy depends upon the willingness of the other joint tenants to cooperate.

Break One of the Four Unities

A joint tenancy is defined by its “Four Unities:”

  1. Unity of Interest — the owners have the same type of property interest.
  2. Unity of Title — the owners’ interests came from the same deed.
  3. Unity of Possession — all owners have the right to possess all the property
  4. Unity of Time — all owners acquired the property interest at the same time

The 4 unities can be destroyed, when one is destroyed, you break the joint tenancy. 

How can the Four Unities be Destroyed?

Agreement

By far the easiest way to divide jointly held property is simply to agree to do it. The joint tenants can simply come up with an agreed division of the property. It may be a good idea to hire an attorney to draw up a legally binding agreement once you and the other joint tenants have agreed in principle to a division. Additionally, new deeds must be drawn to divide the property in line with the mutual agreement.

Deed to Third-Party

If you can’t get everyone to agree, you can still divide jointly owned property. You can simply deed your interest in the property to someone else, which breaks the unities of time and title. If there are more than two joint tenants, the remaining joint tenants will still have a joint tenancy with each other, but not with the new owner, who will hold the property as a tenant in common with the other two owners.

Partition

A court can also divide joint property. You can file a special type of lawsuit called a partition action. In a partition action, a court will either divide the property “in kind,” which means it will divide the property physically among the owners and or it will order that the property be sold and the proceeds distributed between the owners. Partition actions can be expensive and time consuming. Hiring an attorney to represent you is probably a good idea. Contact oe today.