Joint Ownership of Property in Tennessee: Tenancy in Common (Part 1 of 3)

In Tennessee there are three basic forms of concurrent ownership: 1) tenancy in common, 2) joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, and 3) tenancy by the entirety. This is the first of three articles in a series in which we will take a look at each of the three forms of joint ownership.

Tenancy in common (TC) is the ownership of property by multiple people where each person owns an undivided interest in the property. Each person’s ownership interest in the property does not have to be equal (e.g., person 1 owns 30% and person 2 own 70%).

Unless restricted by a separate agreement, each owner’s undivided interest can be freely sold or gifted during such owner’s lifetime without the consent of the other co-owner(s). At death, TC property passes to the beneficiaries of such deceased owner’s will (or to the heirs-at-law if the deceased owner died without a will). In other words, the surviving owner does not automatically inherit the deceased owner’s interest in the property unless the surviving owner is the beneficiary of the property under the will of the deceased owner.

In Tennessee, each owner of TC property has a right of partition which permits each owner the ability to force the division or sale of the property.

While TC property may be an ownership form held by married couples, usually it is the form of ownership between unmarried individuals. Oftentimes siblings own property as TC if it is inherited at a parent’s death.

There are many factors to consider when determining whether to own property as tenants in common. Do I want the property to pass through probate at my death? Do I want to be able to sell or gift my interest during my lifetime without first having to get my co-owner’s consent? Do I want each party (including successor co-owners) to have a right of partition over the property?

These are just a few of the many considerations that must be assessed. In our next post we’ll discuss the characteristics of joint tenancy with rights of survivorship ownership.


  1. I currently remarried and sold my home last week. My new husband and I will build a new home and he owns the dirt that we will build on. I want to own it Joint Tenancy in Common. Will this work if we divorce or if one of us passes before the other. I want to make sure my children receive my portion of the home form the initial investment that I put in and he is able to stay in the home until he passes and the same for me if the table where turned.

    • Tiffany – I apologize that I am just now seeing your comment. I was out on vacation last week. Would you mind contacting Rob Hazard at 615.921.4271? Thanks!

  2. My father passed away on January 2, 2017. He jointly owned his home with his fiance’ (TC). She passed away on January 31, 29 days later. They both had living trusts. My understanding is that one person must survive the other for 30 days in order to be considered a survivor. Is that correct? Do I have standing to make a claim on the home?

  3. My father died with a holographic will leaving his house to me. The house was titled in his name only for 20 years and never retitled in his new wife’s name. He was married 10 years. The holograpic will is determined valid.
    Does the court “always” according to TN grant spousal survivorship. I know its 40%.

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