In BC, there are two types of property ownership structures: Joint Tenancy and Tenants in Common.

With joint tenancy, two or more people own property in equal undivided portions, each with an equal right to the whole property. In this arrangement, if a joint tenant dies the property immediately becomes the property of the surviving joint tenant(s) and does not become part of the deceased person’s estate.

The benefits of joint tenancy are in avoiding the estate settlement process and the taxes and probate period that go along with it.  The surviving tenant(s) can continue to use the property and can mortgage or sell it immediately as they wish, rather than being forced to wait the sometimes lengthy period of estate probate before being able to make financial adjustments.

The drawbacks of joint tenancy is that ownership of the property must be equal among all tenants and no tenant can act independently of the others. For example, a joint tenant cannot sell or gift their ownership in the property to another person without the consent of the other joint tenants.  Along the same lines, a joint tenant cannot pass down or bequeath the property through a will without the equal participation and agreement of all other joint tenants.

Joint tenancy is generally advised for properties owned by spouses, because the benefits of immediate transfer of ownership on death are useful for the surviving spouse while the drawbacks of requiring agreement between tenants for property decisions will not usually be a problem.  It is typically desirable in spousal relationships for property to transfer to the surviving spouse as the sole beneficiary, and if both spouses were to die at the same time they would have a joint estate that the property would go to and be divided among their joint beneficiaries.

The above is general advice only, as with either form of property ownership there are significant potential tax and legal issues to consider.  We strongly recommend consulting both an accountant and a solicitor before making a final decision on the type of ownership structure for any property purchase.

For more information on the other type of property ownership, see Tenants in Common.