Q: Is there a difference in Pennsylvania between “joint tenants” and “joint tenants with right of survivorship”? I am trying to determine how my mother’s property is titled and I keep seeing of these terms for the same property.
A: I do believe that the correct legal terminology is “joint tenants with right of survivorship.” However, I see the wording “joint tenants” used commonly to mean the same thing as an abbreviated version. I am unaware of any different legal meaning. For a more specific answer, I can offer the following. In PA there are three general types of common (joint) ownership of real estate. First, there is tenants-in-common, which is like a plain general partnership and the heirs of any given member of the tenancy, would inherit the other person’s share upon their death. Second, there is tenants-by-the-entireties, how property of spouses is held, where each spouse owns an undivided half of the real property acquired by the spouses and, upon the death of one spouse, the other spouse owns 100% of the property by operation of law. The last, joint-tenants with the right of survivorship, is similar to tenants by the entireties in that the surviving tenant gets the share of a deceased tenant. However, unlike entireties property, unmarried joint tenant’s shares are not protected from their individual creditors.