If you share home ownership, your rights of survivorship depend on what type of tenancy you have. Your type of tenancy also affects your right to convey the property. In Florida there are three basic co-tenancies to hold real estate title, and each of them has its own “unities.”
- Tenancy in Common – The only unity is Unity of Possession. Each person in the co-tenancy had the right to possess the property. The parties can own the property in whatever percentages they want. Any party can sell their interest to anyone without notice to the other owners.
- Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship – There are four unities:
- Unity of Possession (just like Tenancy in Common)
- Unity of Time (the co-tenants must take title at the same time)
- Unity of Title (they must take title on the same instrument)
- Unity of Interest (each party has the same percentage interest as the others)
Any of the co-tenants can break the joint tenancy with rights of survivorship by conveying their interest to anyone else.
- Tenancy by Entirety – This includes the unities of Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship plus the Unity of Marriage, which subscribes to the legal fiction that husband and wife are one entity. As long as the marriage is intact, neither can break the tenancy nor otherwise convey the property. However, upon the dissolution of the marriage, the property is automatically held as Tenancy in Common.
When you get ready to buy a house with somebody and move into happily ever-after, make sure you get the ever-after you were after. Seek competent legal counsel to help you find the tenancy that best fits your idea of “happily.”