Types of Concurrent Estates

Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Real property may be owned by just one person or many. In this lesson, you'll learn about concurrent estates and the various ways multiple people can hold the same parcel of land. A short quiz follows.

Concurrent Estate Defined

A piece of real estate can be owned by just one person or legal entity, such as a corporation or limited partnership, or by many people or entities. A concurrent estate is a term that means more than one person owns the same real property. Let's take a closer look at concurrent estates.

Joint Tenancy

A joint tenancy is a common form of concurrent ownership of real property. If you and someone else hold property as joint tenants, you both own a single unified interest in the entire property. In other words, you don't each own 50% of the property, you each own one 100% of it. Consequently, no joint tenant can own more or less of the property than any other joint tenant. Likewise, each joint tenant has the right to possess and use the entire property. You can't draw a line down the middle of the property and tell your fellow joint tenants to keep to their side of the line. Finally, and importantly, joint tenants have the right of survivorship. This means that if you hold property as joint tenants with another and that person dies, you become the sole owner of the property - the sole survivor of the interest to be more precise.

It's important to note that four conditions, called the four unities, must be met in order for a joint tenancy to exist:

First, you must have a unity of interest with all owners. This means each owner must have identical interests in the real property, including an identical share in the property as well as an identical duration of their interest in the property. If you hold a one-third interest in the property and another person holds a two-thirds interest, there can be no joint tenancy because your interests are different. Duration of interest really refers to the type of estate each person holds in the property. For example, if you hold the land in fee simple absolute and the other person holds a life estate, the duration is different, and there can be no joint tenancy.

Second, you must also have a unity of title. This pretty much means all owners acquired the property through the same deed or will.

Third, there must be unity of time. This means that the interests of all owners in the real estate must vest at the same time. The term 'vest' basically means you have a legal right to some current or future interest in the property.

Fourth, there must be unity of possession. This simply means that you and all the other co-owners have the legal right to both possess and use the entire property.

Joint tenancies can be severed. Any break in the four unities will sever the joint tenancy. For example, let's say that you and another person hold a piece of real estate in joint tenancy. You decide to deed your interest to your friend. Since there is no unity of time or title between your friend and the other owner, there can be no joint tenancy. Instead, the property will be held as tenants in common, which will be discussed in a moment.

Now, let's change up the facts a bit, and say you owned the property with two other joint tenants, and you decide to sell your property to a friend. Your friend will hold his interest as a tenant in common as between the two remaining joint tenants because there is no unity of time or title, but there will still be a joint tenancy between the two remaining joint tenants.

Okay, one last tweak of the facts. As before, you and two other people hold the property as joint tenants, but you decide to convey your interest to one of the other joint tenants. Since there is no unity in time between the interest you conveyed to one of the joint tenants, the grantee of that interest becomes a tenant in common as it concerns the interest you conveyed to him. However, that same person remains a joint tenant as it concerns his original interest in the property. In other words, he's now wearing two hats: he holds one interest in the property, the one you conveyed to him, as a tenant in common, but his original interest is still held as a joint tenant.

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