tenancy (estate) by the entirety – an (tenancy and) estate in land or in personal property that exists between husband and wife; jointly owned with right to survivorship

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tenancy by the entirety:

1. A common-law estate in which each spouse is seised of the whole of the property.  An estate by entirety is based on the legal fiction that a husband and wife are a single unit. The estate consists of live unities: time, title, interest, possession, and marriage. The last of these unities distinguishes the estate by entirety from the joint tenancy.  A joint tenancy can exist with any number of persons, while an estate by entirety can be held only by a husband and wife and is not available to any other persons.  And it can be acquired only during the marriage.  This estate has a right of survivorship, but upon the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse retains the entire interest rather than acquiring the decedent’s interest.  Most jurisdictions have abolished this estate. — aka estate by the entirety; estate by entireties; estate by the entireties; tenancy by the entirety; tenancy by the entireties. [1]

1. See estate by entireties. [2]

1. A form of joint tenancy in an estate in land or in personal property that exists between husband and wife by virtue of the fact that they hare husband and wife.  As with a conventional joint tenancy, a tenancy by the entirety is a tenancy with right of survivorship.  “Tenancy,” in this context, means ownership fo the jointly held estate or interest, whether, for EXAMPLE, it si a fee simple estate, a life estate, a savings account, or the like. [3]

estate by entireties – An estate predicated on the legal unity of husband and wife, being taken, upon a conveyance or devise to them, to hold as a single person with the right of survivorship as an incident, so that when one dies, the entire estate belongs to the other by virtue of the title originally vested. 26 Am J1st H & W § 66. [2]

1. The estate of husband and wife owning land together as tenants by the entirety. [3]

     Excerpt from Robert Kratovil, Real Estate Law 198 (6th ed. 1974):

     “Tenancy by the entireties is a form of joint tenancy.  It resembles joint tenancy in that upon the death of either husband or wife the survivor automatically acquires title to the share of the deceased spouse.  Like a joint tenancy, also, it is necessary for the creation of a tenancy by the entireties that the husband and wife acquire title by the same deed or will. [4]

     Excerpt from Thomas F. Bergin & Paul G. Haskell, Preface to Estates in Land and Future Interests 55 (2d ed. 1984):

     “Where [tenancy by the entirety] is recognized, it may exist only between a husband and a wife. It resembles, in most respects, the joint tenancy. The only major difference is that a tenant by the entirety may not destroy the other spouse’s right of survivorship by transferring his or her interest to another. Whether a tenant by the entirety may transfer any interest to a third party – for example, the right of present possession or the contingent right of survivorship is a matter on which the states differ.  Most take the view that no interest may be transferred. The husband and wife may, of course, together convey their estate to a third person. If they both wish to convert their tenancy into a tenancy in common or a joint tenancy, they may do 50. Upon the death of a tenant by the entirety, no interest p asses, in theory, to the surviving spouse.  As was true of the joint tenancy, the survivor’s ownership is thought simply to expand to absorb the relinquished ownership of the decedent. [5]

     Excerpt from Robert E. Megarry & P.V. Baker, A Manual of the Law of Real Property 232-33 (4th ed. 1969):

     “A tenancy by the entireties could exist in any estate, whether in fee, for life, for years or otherwise. The nature of the tenancy was virtually that of an unseverable joint tenancy; neither husband nor wife could dispose of any interest in the land without the concurrence of the other, nor could one of them cause a forfeiture of the land. The unity of husband and wife was regarded as so complete that they were said to be seised ‘per tout et non per mle,’ the survivor being entitled to the whole of the land by force of the original limitation, discharged of the other’s right to participate, and not, as in the case of oint tenancy, by virtue of survivorship on the death of t e other tenant. Unlike joint tenants, neither tenant was regarded as having any potential share in the land; ‘between husband and wife there are no moieties. [6]


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations Third Edition by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: Robert Kratovil, Real Estate Law 198 (6th ed. 1974). 

[5]: Thomas F. Bergin & Paul G. Haskell, Preface to Estates in Land and Future Interests 55 (2d ed. 1984).

[6]:  Robert E. Megarry & P.V. Baker, A Manual of the Law of Real Property 232-33 (4th ed. 1969).


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