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I'm opening a joint account with my wife, and see the following options. What do they mean?

  • Tenants with right of survivorship.
  • Tenants by the entirety with right of survivorship.
  • Community property or marital property.
  • Tenants in common.

Additional question:

  • Right of survivorship = the surviving spouse will inherit the entire asset without doing anything. Because the 3rd and 4th options don't have this, the surviving spouse has to what to inherit?
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Joint tenancy with right of survivorship means that if one of the joint owners (tenants) passes away, the other (surviving) joint owner becomes the sole owner of the property. With three or more original joint owners, when one owner passes away, the surviving owners become the new joint owners with right of survivorship. This is a common way to leave property to someone else without the need of making a will and transferring the property tp the survivor without the hassle of probate etc. More strongly, jointly owned property cannot be passed on through a bequest in a will; the ownership rights of the deceased cease as of the time of death even if the deceased ceased to exist because of a disease.

Tenancy by the entirety is a special case of joint tenancy with right of survivorship that is available only to joint owners who are spouses, and is not available in all states of the US. Ask on law.SE if you want more information about the extra privileges this form confers.

Community or marital property is property acquired during a marriage for those who live in community-property states. Assets acquired prior to marriage are the property of the individual spouses and remain so.

Tenancy in common means that the owners own the specified shares of the property (e.g. 60% to 40%) with equal shares being presumed if no specification is made. Each owner can leave his or her share to some one else by writing a will, or if no will exists, the heirs (as determined by state law and/or probate court) inherit the deceased's share.

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