In order to create a joint tenancy, four unities (possession, interest, time, and title — the PITT group) must exist unless excused by state statute.
• Possession: All Joint Tenants individually have equal rights to possession.
• Interest: All Joint Tenants have an equal ownership share in the land.
• Title: All Joint Tenants must have equal title, i.e., fee simple.
• Time: All Joint Tenants must have the land conveyed to them by the same instrument at the same time by the same grantor.
A deed, from an owner to himself and another with wording verifying his intent to create a joint tenancy with right of survivorship, should be considered to have created survivorship rights. However, deeds with wording limited to joint tenants or as joint tenants and not as tenants in common may not suffice to establish survivorship rights in some jurisdictions.
Provided survivorship rights have been established, in the event one party dies, his or her portion of the title, as a joint tenant, will pass to the surviving joint tenant(s), free of any claims of any heirs or devises under a will (or creditors, depending on state law) of the deceased.
A joint tenancy interest may be severed voluntarily by all joint tenants or by a conveyance of the interest of any one joint tenant, or involuntarily by an execution sale of any interest subject thereto. A levy and sale or bankruptcy sale against one joint tenant will operate to sever that joint tenancy interest. Such interest may be sold without the other joint tenant(s) being made a party to the action. At the time of levy and sale the joint tenancy will be severed and the new purchaser will become a tenant in common with the other co-owner(s).
Joint tenancy applies to individuals only and cannot apply to entities such as partnerships, corporations, etc., which may have life spans other than natural persons.