The Definitive Answer On Joint Tenants Selling Their Interest

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We love answering your questions, and there is one that Matthew seems to get quite frequently lately as a result of the classes he’s been teaching, The Truth Behind The Title, so we decided to answer it here in an effort to reach more people.

Question: Does a joint tenant have to give notice to the other joint tenant if they are selling their one half interest?  The presumption is that you must give notice to the other Joint Tenant to transfer your interest.  Do you need to give notice to your joint tenant before transferring your interest?

Answer: The answer is, “No”.  Now keep in mind this would be a pretty rare situation. Let’s use Matthew and his wife Randee as examples. Matthew and Randee own property in Windham together as Joint Tenants. Can Matthew walk into any lawyer’s office and ask that a deed be written from Matthew McDonald to Amanda Mondor (an employee that works with Matthew)?  Yup!   Will a lawyer write that deed?  Of course – there’s no reason not to.  Does Matthew have to tell Randee that he’s done this? No!  Now Randee and Amanda will own the property as Tenants in Common.

Now WHY would someone do this? This is where it gets interesting! Now let’s just say that Matthew had a child from a previous marriage. (He DOESN’T!)   And let’s just say that he was also getting sick and expected to die before his wife. (No, he’s not sick, he feels great!)  What if he wanted to break the joint tenancy WITHOUT telling Randee. That way, when he dies his half of the house would go (according to his will) to his child from a previous marriage. So Matthew does a deed from himself to another person and then they deed the property right back to Matthew. He has thus broken the joint tenancy and now his wife and himself own the property as tenants in common. Does he have to tell Randee that he did any of this?  Nope!!  Then when he dies, his half of the house does NOT go directly to his wife, rather it will go to the child from his previous marriage. Wow!

We hope this sheds a little more light on the subject for you. And please keep sending us these great questions!  And remember, Cumberland Title gives out free smoke detector installation at every sale transaction and refinance. Please feel free to call us with any questions: 207-899-4900.