Meaning of the Legal Term "Rights of Survivorship"

by Marie Murdock
Rights of survivorship determine who acquires jointly-owned property after death.

Rights of survivorship determine who acquires jointly-owned property after death.

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The term, “Rights of survivorship,” refers to a form of property ownership where two or more people -- often a husband and wife -- acquire property together with provisions in their deed that upon the death of one of them, the survivor automatically acquires the deceased co-owner's share. When property passes by survivorship, there is no need to probate a will to transfer ownership.

Joint Tenancy and Tenancy by the Entirety

In most states, rights of survivorship only exist when the co-owners hold the property as joint tenants or as tenants by the entirety. These two forms of ownership require that co-owners own the property for the same period and in equal interests; they jointly own the property as a whole and each has the same rights in the property.

Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in common is a form of ownership that is different from joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety. The co-owners do not have to acquire their interests in the same deed; those interests do not have to be equal, and in most states, rights of survivorship do not exist between tenants in common. When two or more people own property as tenants in common and one of the owners dies, his interest passes to the beneficiaries under his will or his heirs at law.