Survivorship

Where more than one party owns property, i.e. a ship, it is necessary to determine in what way their ownership is formed.  This can best be illustrated by thinking in terms of real estate. Joint owners or joint tenants.  This is where the ownership of the property is vested jointly with unity of title and no distinction of interest.  Therefore, no joint tenant owns any specific share in the property himself.  The joint tenants operate between themselves a joint ‘right of survivorship’; on the death of one joint tenant his interest is automatically invested in the remaining joint tenant(s). Eventually the sole interest will remain to the last survivor. This is the salient feature of a joint tenancy – the right of survivorship takes precedence over any disposition made by a joint tenant’s will. Tenants in common or part owners.  A tenancy in common must be firmly distinguished from a joint tenancy.  Tenants in common hold in ‘undivided shares’ i.e. each tenant in common has a distinct and separate share in the property.  There is no right of survivorship and when a tenant in common dies his undivided share will pass under his will or intestacy.  Normally, the relations of co-owners as between themselves (inter se) are regulated by express agreement.  Where there is no such agreement, however, their rights inter se are governed in English law by the principle that the ‘will of the majority‘ must prevail.  This is subject to the qualification that the interest of the dissenting minority must be properly protected.  The power of sale, however, will be exercised by the court (albeit with reluctance) against the wishes of the dissenting minority of co-owners.