What are the pros and cons of owning real property in joint tenancy versus in a living trust?

Owning real property in joint tenancy and through a living trust are two common ways to hold property. Each option has its own pros and cons, but which one would be best for you? Here are some of the key things to consider.





  • Right of survivorship: When one owner dies, their share automatically passes to the surviving owner(s) without going through probate.
  • Simple to set up: Joint tenancy is a simple way to hold property and can be set up quickly and easily with minimal legal costs.
  • Immediate access: All owners have immediate access to the property.


  • Lack of control: Each owner has an equal say in the management of the property, which can lead to disagreements or conflicts.
  • Creditors: If one owner has unpaid debts or judgments, their creditors may be able to place liens on the property, which could affect the other owner(s).
  • Tax implications: Depending on the circumstances, joint tenancy can have negative tax implications for the owners, particularly if the property appreciates significantly in value.  The loss of the “step up” in basis on the full property value can be a significant tax impact.





  • Control: The creator of the trust (or trustee) can retain control of the property during their lifetime, and specify how the property should be distributed after their death.
  • Privacy: Trusts are generally not a matter of public record, so the details of the trust and the distribution of assets can remain private.
  • Probate avoidance: When the creator of the trust dies, the property passes to the beneficiaries named in the trust without going through probate, which can save time and money.


  • Initial cost: Setting up a living trust can be more complex and expensive than setting up joint tenancy.
  • Ongoing maintenance: The trustee must manage and maintain the trust, which can involve ongoing administrative tasks and expenses.
  • Limited access: If the property is held in the trust, the trustee must follow the rules and limitations of the trust, which could restrict the owner’s access to the property.




Ultimately, the choice between joint tenancy and a living trust depends on the specific circumstances of the property owners and their goals for the property. Consulting with an attorney or financial advisor can help determine which option is the best fit. Our estate planning attorneys are here and eager to help you navigate through the pros and cons and determine which option will help you reach your goals.

Have Questions? We Can Help!

Contact our firm for a consultation.
Skip to content