What Happens to Inheritance Property When the Deceased was a Co-Owner?

What Happens to Inheritance Property When the Deceased was a Co-Owner?


How is real estate distributed when a person dies as a co-owner?


Real estate that was owned by a deceased loved one passes by the terms of the will or by Pennsylvania’s intestacy law. An ordinary transfer to the heirs become complicated if the deceased owned only a partial interest in the property. These situations arise when the deceased was part-owner with a friend, another family member, or business partner.


The deceased cannot transfer a greater share than what they owned at death. What the heirs receive, if anything, depends on how the property was titled before death.



What do the deceased’s heirs receive?


The question of what inheritance rights pass to the heirs depends on the deed. If the deceased was a co-owner with a spouse and the property was held as “tenants by the entirety”, then the entire property remains the property of the surviving spouse. This type of deed arrangement is only available in Pennsylvania to spouses.


If the co-owner was not a spouse, the property will still remain the property of the co-owner if the deed was a joint tenancy “with a right of survivorship”. The language of the deed must specifically state “right of survivorship” in order for the deceased’s interest to automatically pass to the surviving co-owner.


All other co-ownership arrangements are held as “tenants in common”. In these ordinary co-ownership deeds, the deceased’s share of the property will pass to the heirs according to the will or intestacy law.


What happens if the deceased’s heirs cannot agree with the surviving co-owner on what should be done with the property?


Joint ownership of property can result in roadblocks to sale after the death of a co-owner. If a co-owner will not agree to a sale or buyout, a lawsuit may be required. The type of legal action to compel a sale is called a partition action.


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