The 3 Property Ownership Choices for Couples in Michigan.

In Michigan, there are three options for Property ownership for unmarried and married couples:  1.  Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship (JTWROS), 2. Joint Tenancy (JT), and 3. Tenants by Entireties (TBE)(married couples only).

All three arrangements offer unique advantages and disadvantages, making it crucial for couples to understand the implications of their choice. In this blog, the Law Offices of Harry Steven Ellman will point out the intricacies of these three property ownership types, allowing you to make an informed decision that suits your specific circumstances.

Advantages of Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship and Joint Tenancy:

1. Simplicity in Estate Planning: JTWROS allows for the seamless transfer of property ownership to the surviving co-owner upon the other owner’s death. This simple mechanism negates the need for probate and ensures an efficient transfer of assets. JT, however, differs in that each co-owner holds an undivided one-half interest. When one owner dies, their interest is passed on to their estate, not the co-owner.

2. Asset Protection: Joint Tenancy protects the couple’s property from individual creditor claims. If one owner faces financial hardships, their share of the jointly owned property remains untouchable.

3. Continuous Property Management: With JTWROS and JT, both partners have equal rights to occupy and manage the property during their lifetimes. This promotes a sense of shared responsibility and enables efficient decision-making.

Disadvantages of Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship and Joint Tenancy:

1. Termination of Joint Tenancy: If one partner decides to sever the joint tenancy, their share of the property can be transferred without the consent or knowledge of the other owner. However, on property owned as JTWFROS, an owner can only sell the contingent remainder, and there are no likely buyers for that because no one can predict which owner will die first. If there is a dispute between the co-owners, a court cannot grant a sale of this type of interest unless the co-owners agree. This type of ownership could lead to conflicts and legal battles, costing thousands in attorney fees.

2. Tax Implications: Upon the death of one owner, the surviving owner might have to deal with potential tax liabilities when they decide to sell the property. Consulting a tax professional is essential to understand the tax implications fully.

Advantages of Tenants by Entireties(available to married couples only):

1. Asset Protection: TBE offers enhanced protection against creditors. Neither spouse can individually transfer or mortgage their interest in the property without the other spouse’s consent.

2. Shield from Divorce Proceedings: In the event of a divorce, TBE property is usually exempt from division, as it is considered the joint asset of the couple. This can provide added peace of mind in uncertain times. The court will decide which spouse retains ownership and will allow the other spouse a lien on their financial interest or may even order the house sold and the proceeds divided.

3. Protection in Case of Premature Death: TBE property can help ensure that the surviving spouse will have shelter and utility under challenging circumstances, as they are exempt from claims made by the deceased spouse’s creditors.

Disadvantages of Tenants by Entireties:

1. Termination of Ownership: If the couple decides to dissolve their marriage, TBE ownership terminates automatically during divorce proceedings.  The couple become Joint Tenants. This implies that both spouses must agree on disposing of the property, which might not always align with one’s wishes.

2. Lack of Flexibility: Selling, transferring, or mortgaging the property without the other spouse’s consent can prove challenging. This lack of flexibility might limit specific opportunities for one or both parties.


     Choosing between Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship, Joint Tenancy, and Tenants by Entireties is necessary for couples in Michigan. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each property ownership option is crucial to protecting your interests and planning. Assess your unique circumstances, consult legal professionals, and make an informed choice that aligns with your goals and peace of mind. Remember, the right choice will ultimately depend on your personal preferences, financial situation, and long-term objectives as a couple.

     As the blog ends, we hope this informative article has shed some light on property ownership’s intricacies for couples in Michigan. Explore your options thoroughly and seek legal counsel when making decisions that impact your assets and future. 

Harry Steven Ellman
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