I Want to Leave a Piece of Property to Multiple People. What Do I Need to Know?

During the estate planning process, many people decide they several people to benefit from the same piece of property, whether it is land, a house, or anything else. Sometimes this is because they have limited assets, and other times it is because they simply do not want to leave any of their intended beneficiaries unprovided for. Regardless of your reasons, if you live in Illinois and want to leave a piece of your property to multiple people there are several different factors you will need to take into consideration.

What Are My Options?

There are two primary ways individuals can leave property to multiple individuals. The first is a legal structure known as joint tenancy, and the second is a legal structure known as tenancy-in-common.

Joint Tenancy

Joint tenancy is an incredibly common form of joint ownership of property. In fact, many married couples have joint tenancy of property without even realizing it. What distinguishes joint tenancy of property is that each joint tenant has the right to use the jointly owned property. Common examples include bank accounts, homes, and cars. Another distinguishing feature of joint tenancy is that joint tenants have what is known as “right of survivorship,” meaning that if one joint tenant passes away, the others assumer the deceased joint tenant’s share in the property. Furthermore, in these situations surviving joint tenants takes the deceased joint tenant’s rights in the property free of any claims of the deceased tenant’s hears, meaning that the deceased tenant’s children have no automatic rights to the property.


Tenancy-in-common is a legal structure similar to joint tenancy in that each tenant-in-common has the right to use the property and share in any income that the property generates. Unlike with joint tenancy, however, tenants-in-common have no right of survivorship. Thus, when a tenant-in-common passes away, their share of the property goes to their heirs or beneficiaries rather than the other original tenants-in-common. The deceased heirs and beneficiaries then become tenants-in-common on the property.

What Structure is Right for Me?

There are many pros and cons to joint tenancy and tenancy-in-common, and you should always consult an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney before you make any decisions about how to allocate your estate. While joint tenants greatly benefit from the right of survivorship, all joint tenants must agree to the sale or mortgage of a property, and receiving a joint tenancy can jeopardize that joint tenant’s receipt of government benefits and senior citizen real estate tax treatment. Tenancy-in-common more easily allows tenants to do what they want with their property, however, that can lead to conflict down the line and also increases the risk that the property can ends< up being used by someone or for purposes you do not intend. Ultimately, what is right for you depends upon the unique circumstances of your estate.

Need Estate Planning Help? Contact an Estate Planning Attorney

At M&A Law, we regularly help our clients solve problems like these. Do not guess at what you think will best serve your assets and your intended beneficiaries. Rather, talk to one of our experienced attorneys to learn more about your estate planning options. Contact M&A Law Firm, PC, today.