Joint Tenancy Vs Community Property Title

joint tenancy vs community property

Multiple parties may share an interest in a property for many reasons. Depending on the reasons, ownership could take many forms. Two common options are joint tenancy and community property. But what are the differences between joint tenancy vs community property?

Both ownership structures allow multiple parties to share property ownership but have different rights and obligations. Which one would you use to share ownership of a property? How do they compare? This post will cover some essential points about joint tenants and community property.

Joint Tenancy Vs Community Property Title

The Owners

Joint tenancy allows two or more people to own property jointly. It could be any two people. A husband and wife can be joint tenants. 

Business partners might own property jointly. A parent might own property with their children as a part of estate planning.

Community property is strictly for married couples. It is a legal construct that involves spouses owning everything equally. Whether one spouse bought the property on their own or used money they earned, they share ownership. In the same way, the spouses also share all debts and legal obligations associated with the property.


Debt liability is one way a joint tenancy can be better than community property. If you share a joint tenancy with someone, a creditor can only go after the portion of the property they own. With community property, you share ownership and debts equally as it concerns the property. If one spouse has debts, the creditor can go after the property as a whole.


Both ownership structures offer the right of survivorship. This right means the property passes to the surviving owner in the event of the other’s death. It can help spouses or family members avoid probate when one of the owners dies.

One way they differ is how taxes may apply in the event of a death. When one owner dies in a joint tenancy, the step-up basis will only apply to appreciation on their half of the property. With community property, the step-up basis applies to the entire property when one spouse dies.

The reason the step-up basis is important is that it has tax implications. The step-up basis resets the cost basis on inherited property. Instead of having the original cost basis, the surviving owner gets a new cost basis set at the current value. It is more complicated than this, but the difference can have significant tax implications.

Another critical difference is that Tennessee has no community property laws. There are only a handful of states that follow community property laws.

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