Joint tenant ownership lets you own stocks with one of more other people. Each joint tenant owns an equal share of the stocks. If four joint tenants own 100 shares total, each one owns 25 percent of the stock. As a joint tenant, you do not automatically have the right to sell your stock shares. The other joint tenants must agree to sell their shares along with yours. If problems arise, you may need to bring the matter before a court to resolve the dispute.
Living Joint Tenants
When all the joint tenants agree to sell the shares, the transaction is handled as a normal stock sale. If the joint tenants opened an online stock-trading account together, you can sell the shares through that account. For traditional accounts, you can contact your stockbroker and put in an order to sell the shares. Based on the brokerage firm’s regulations, the joint tenants may have to submit a written statement or affidavit agreeing to sell the shares.
Surviving Joint Tenants
When one of the joint tenants dies, you do not automatically have to sell the stock shares. Instead, you can file the paperwork with the brokerage firm to have the decedent’s name removed from the stock certificate. Your stockbroker can send the form to remove the decedent’s name to you or you may be able to download the form from the brokerage firm’s website. All the surviving joint tenants must sign the form agreeing to retitle the stock certificate. You will have to send a certified death certificate along with the form to verify the decedent’s death.
Refusal to Sell
If you want to sell your shares and the other joint tenants do not, you can seek relief through the court. Your attorney will file a partition for sale requesting that the court order the stock shares sold. The court has two ways to resolve this matter. The court can order the shares sold and the proceeds split evenly among the joint tenants. Alternatively, the court can allow the other joint tenants to buy out your share. With this option, you receive the value of your shares in cash while the remaining joint tenants still retain ownership of their shares.
Convey Your Shares
You can covey your interest in the stock shares by transferring them to a beneficiary you name in your will or trust. This does not affect the joint tenant arrangement until your demise. At that time, your named beneficiary takes ownership of your shares. If there are three remaining joint tenants, each one now owns one-fourth of the stock shares. The remaining one-fourth is owned by your beneficiary as a tenant in common. The stock shares are legally held by three joint tenants and one tenant in common.
Based in St. Petersburg, Fla., Karen Rogers covers the financial markets for several online publications. She received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of South Florida.