Joint tenancy is the ownership of real property by two or more co-owners (joint tenants) who have identical interests in the property—and also have a right of survivorship.
A right of survivorship means that upon the death of a joint tenant the property passes directly to the other joint tenant(s), allowing the ownership to be transferred to the surviving joint tenant(s) without going through the probate or court systems. A joint tenancy is sometimes referred to as a joint tenancy with right of survivorship.
This right of survivorship is what distinguishes a joint tenancy from a tenancy in common, in which co-owners hold the property as tenants in common. In some states the right of survivorship must be clearly expressed in the document transferring or conveying the property to the joint tenants, or the tenancy will be presumed to be a tenancy in common.
Laws vary from state to state and in many states the law regarding joint ownership of real property is located in a state’s statutes—although it may also be located in a state’s court opinions (common law or case law).