Cassandra Coolin
Notary Public

22720 Lougheed Highway,
Maple Ridge, B.C. V2X 2V6

The Benefits and Dangers of Joint Tenancy

One of the most frequent questions I am asked as a Notary Public, is “what is the most efficient way to hold property to avoid having to pay probate fees?” While the answer may be registering your home as Joint Tenants with another person, typically a spouse or child, it could have significant legal ramifications.

What is the difference between Sole Ownership, Tenants-In-Common and Joint Tenants?

Sole Ownership: can be characterized as ownership by a single individual who has complete control of the property who is not obligated to seek consultation or authorization of any other individual in any dealing(s) of the property. In the case of real estate, a home can be registered solely in one person’s name as the sole owner. However upon the owner’s passing, the house will form part of the deceased’s estate and will be distributed according to the individual’s directions in the Will – subject to probate fees.

Tenants-In-Common: allows two or more persons to hold property in different proportions. For example, a husband who has previously owned property and a wife who has never owned a principal residence may register their home as tenants-in-common, whereas the husband holds 1% ownership and the wife holds 99% in order to take advantage of the property transfer tax exemption.

A noteworthy consequence of tenants-in-common is that each individual’s share of the property becomes a part of the owner’s estate on death. Thus, the individual’s share of the property will be distributed to the beneficiaries named in the deceased’s Will – subject to probate fees. It does not pass on death to the other individuals on title to the property.  A common scenario where this type of ownership is utilized is with blended families where a husband and wife may hold property as tenants-in-common together, allowing each person to gift their share of the property in their Will to their own biological children as a means of ensuring their own children are protected upon their passing.

Joint Tenancy: must be owned by two or more persons in equal proportions with an equal right to use the whole property. Joint tenancy has a unique element of “right of survivorship” in which upon the death of a joint owner, the deceased’s share of the property automatically reverts to the surviving joint owner. By passing directly to the surviving joint tenant, the property does not form part of the estate and it is not subject to probate. It is important to note that since the property is passing outside of the estate it does not pass under the Will, consequently it is not distributed among the beneficiaries named under the deceased’s Will.

Joint Tenancy vs. Probate

Legal professionals, financial advisors and estate planners may recommend registering property as Joint Tenants as part of the estate planning process.While this method of ownership can be effective in avoiding probate fees, there are a number of risks and drawbacks from this ownership. Homeowners should carefully consider the following potential unintended consequences before registering their home in joint tenancy with other persons.

 Ability of creditors to seize an interest in the property. If the person added to title incurs financial difficulties, the debts of the individual can be attached to the property. For example if you put your child on title and your child has debts to Canada Revenue Agency for unpaid income taxes his or her creditors could have a claim against the estate and may try to seize the child’s half share of the property.

Claim of ex-spouses if the person added to title later divorces or separates. The ex-spouse of the person added on title may consider the home as an asset to be shared in their separation.

 Capital Gains Tax. If the person being added on title does not live at the property as his or her principal residence the equity acquired during the time he or she owns the property may be subject to capital gains tax at 25%.

Property Transfer Tax. If the property is not a principal residence or the individual being added to title is not a related party, the property being transferred is subject to property transfer tax at 1% on the first $200,000 and 2% on the remainder above $200,000.

Unequal distribution to family members. If a parent adds one of their children on title and subsequently passes away, the child inherits the parent’s share of the property and upon the parent’s death, he or she does not have to share the sale proceeds with any siblings.

Loss of Control. Joint ownership entitles each owner on title to equal entitlement, profits and loss. However, as equal owners, in order to sell, mortgage, refinance or transfer the property, agreement and signatures of all co-owners is required.

Ability to Sever the Joint Tenancy. If an individual adds their common law spouse on title to become joint owners, the spouse may at any later date, without the knowledge of the other person, sever the joint tenancy and turn ownership into tenancy-in-common and gift their share of the property to an undisclosed spouse or child.

While joint tenancy could be an effective technique to avoid probate, it comes with numerous associated risks and dangers. Homeowners should evaluate these potential complications, against the costs and time involved with probate. In order to make an informed decision, it is essential to educate and familiarize yourself on probate fees.

Probate Fees

Probate fees are a provincial tax levied on the gross value of an estate at the time application is made to the Supreme Court for probate. Probate is triggered when the gross value of the deceased’s estate is $25,000 or greater. The probate fee is calculated as follows:

Administration Filing Fee of $208 plus:



$6 per $1,000 or portion (0.6%)

$50,000 and over

$14 per $1,000 or portion (1.4%)


For example, on an estate valued at $700,000, the probate filing fees would be approximately $9,458.00.00:

            Basic Fee                                                     $208.00

            Additional Fee(s)       $25,000-$50,000            $150.00

                                          $50,000-$700,000         $9,100.00


Probate Fees are payable on assets which are part of the estate. Probate fees are not collected on assets passing by right of survivorship through joint tenancy ownership. Thus, the critical effect of joint ownership is that on the death of a co-owner, the deceased’s interest automatically passes to the surviving joint tenant without incurring any probate fees.  

Homeowners must educate themselves to make an informed choice to determine what is best for their personal situation and estate planning goals before adding a person on title jointly merely to avoid probate. While adding a loved one on title may seem like a simple solution to avoid paying legal and probate fees, the legal ramifications of joint tenancy ownership need to be carefully considered. Ultimately seeking legal and tax advice of a professional can help in assessing all factors and personal situations to determine whether the benefits of a joint tenancy outweigh the risks and potential complications that may arise.

**The information provided above is for educational and informational purposes only. This is not legal advice and is not to be relied upon as legal advice. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional.**