What Is Tenancy in Severalty?

Real Estate Agent

The word severalty refers to being separate. Tenancy in severalty means an exclusive and separate right of possession and ownership. The person who owns the property could be an individual or a corporation. 

In simpler terms, severalty means sole ownership of property. Other terms used to refer to tenancy in severalty are:

  • Sole tenancy
  • Ownership in severalty
  • Severalty tenancy
  • Estate in severalty etc.

Tenants in severalty, as well as in-common and joint tenants, are the most common forms of property ownership. Tenancy in severalty can be the preferred way of holding property.

How Tenancy in Severalty Is Different from Joint Tenancy and Tenancy in Common

The main difference between tenancy in severalty and joint tenancy or tenancy in common is that tenancy in severalty has only one owner. The owner of the property can do whatever they wish, within the law, with the property. 

In joint tenancy and tenancy in common, there are multiple owners. Tenants in common enjoy equal rights of possession of the entire property. Each can sell his interest without the consent of other tenants. 

Married people can have an option of owning property as a tenancy in common. In this case, the owners are listed on the deed along with their interest in the property, and each owner is issued a title document that also states the extent of their interest in the property. In joint tenancy, tenants share the right of possession but may not sell their share to a third party.

Tenancy in severalty, on the other hand; after the owner’s death, the property will be passed on according to the last will or to any trust that may have been established. Tenants in common; if one of the owners dies, his interest in the property is conveyed to his heirs through his will or becomes part of his estate. 

His heirs become tenants in common with the other co-workers when they assume ownership. There is no right of survivorship under a tenancy in common. Most states recognize a right of survivorship in joint tenancy. This means that if one of the owners dies, his interest in the property reverts to the survivor.

Can A Property Interest Be Converted from A Tenancy in Severalty to A Joint Tenancy?

If a single owner wants to create a joint tenancy from a tenancy in severalty, they will need to deed the said property to themselves and the other person or people as joint tenants.

Can A Joint Tenancy or Tenancy in Common Be Converted into A Tenancy In Severalty?

Either a joint tenancy or tenancy in common can be converted into a tenancy in severalty if all property interests are deeded or sold to one owner. Because survivorship is recognized in the case of joint tenancy, if the other owner or owners die leaving only one surviving owner, the joint tenancy becomes a tenancy of severalty. 

Bringing a partition action can also terminate a joint tenancy or a tenancy in common. This however may not always result in a tenancy of severalty. The property can be divided or partitioned among owners if possible. If this is not possible, the property can be sold, and the proceeds divided among the owners.

Benefits of Tenancy in Severalty

Owning property as a tenancy in severalty gives you complete control over your property. You have the right to sell, lease, and transfer ownership by gift, mortgage, or include in your last will as the owner of the property under tenancy in severalty. 

This makes estate planning simpler in many ways. It is not difficult to determine matters such as inheritances and property portions. This may also help to guard your financial well-being.

It is possible to own property as a tenancy in severalty when you are married if you owned the property before you got married, or if you specifically chose to buy property as a tenancy in severalty while you are married.

Disadvantages of Tenancy in Severalty

It may be difficult to own property as a tenancy in severalty if you have a spouse who you hope would keep your property if you die before they do. You would also have to go out of your way in some states to buy property as a tenancy in severalty if you are married. 

There are no rights of survivorship for a property held as a tenancy in severalty. When the sole owner dies, the property will have to pass through probate after being passed on to any heirs. This means that the owners would have to be proved authentic in a probate court.

A person may want to consider owning property as a tenancy in severalty as it is a good way to safeguard personal financial well-being. But regardless of how you own your property, having an estate plan is important. The earlier a person starts the easier it is to make adjustments to the plan.

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