What are the Rights of a Joint Owner/Co-Owner of Land in Texas?
Jointly owning land can sometimes seem like a risky process, but comes with many benefits at the same time. Most spouses and business partners choose to own land jointly to reduce the burden of legal issues or fees.
Texas is a community property state, which means that any assets or property a spouse acquires during the marriage will be considered jointly owned unless there is proof to the contrary. Spouses may wish to separately own property or to specifically provide that their share of the community estate will be divided in a certain manner. If one spouse decides they wish to give their interest in property to someone outside the family or someone who is not an heir, they must be sure to put this intent in writing and must additionally receive the agreement of the other spouse to effectively divide the community property into separate property. This takes skilled legal drafting and it is important to not attempt to draft any of these documents without the guidance of an experienced real estate attorney.
Texas law assumes that two unrelated property owners are “tenants-in-common” which means that each person owns an undivided one-half interest in the property. If there are no further agreements in place, no right of survivorship is assumed, which means that upon the death of one owner, the other owner will not automatically claim interest in the remaining one-half. Instead, upon the death of one owner, their interest will pass to their heirs according to their will or Texas law.
However, if two non-spouses own property together, they may agree in writing to set up a joint tenancy with right of survivorship. This protects the owner of property from having the other interest in land pass to a person who either may not be able to handle the property or simply an outside person who the owner does not want to jointly own property with. It is simple to craft a joint tenancy with right of survivorship with the assistance of an attorney. It is important that the document specifically states that both owners intend to be “joint owners with rights of survivorship” and “not tenants-in-common.” Upon signature and witness, the intent of both parties is solidified and the document will hold up in court if an heir wishes to contest the interest later down the road. This document is in addition to a warranty deed if the joint tenancy is not crafted at the time of the deeding of property, and therefore it is important to keep copies of all documents and records in case of any future questions.
One important thing to keep in mind is that the surviving owner must survive the deceased owner by at least 120 hours. If this does not happen, then the property will be divided as though the joint tenancy is not in place.
Most of the time, joint ownership of property only becomes an issue upon the death of one owner. Co-owners may provide for the ownership of property upon their death through wills or living trusts. However, this can get tricky if the other owner did not consent to the gift of property. If no will or trust was put in place, the property will pass through intestacy or may pass to the other co-owner through survivorship clauses.
Malley Law Firm, PLLC | Houston Property Attorney
The division of real property is never as easy as it sounds, and often takes the expertise of an experienced real estate attorney. If you are considering the joint ownership of a parcel of land, there are many different issues you should consider, many which are made simpler if you include a provision in the warranty deed itself. Contact the Malley Law Firm, PLLC in Beaumont or Houston for your initial free consultation.