Joint ownership of personal property in recent years has become a common practice--one to which husband and wife are especially addicted. The topic is worthy of more than academic concern as demonstrated by the public use of joint titles in the acquisition of all kinds of personal assets, particularly investment securities. A casual conversation with almost any banker would disclose that a very high percentage of accounts owned by married people are held jointly with their spouses. The current popularity of dual ownership, for example, is reflected in the marketing policy of the United States Treasury in the sale of savings bonds whereby a form of "co-ownership" is approved and encouraged. As a matter of fact, there is some indication that the family automobile often is registered or titled in the names of husband and wife. Joint ownership to husband and wife is as much a part of modem living as is the family automobile. The writer would estimate that in some states over one half of the total wealth accumulated by married persons is held jointly in one form or another. The widespread practice on the part of married people to acquire and hold property jointly demonstrates a deep-rooted public belief that the marriage relationship is both a social and economic venture. In working out the problems of joint ownership-particularly with reference to personal property-most of our courts have been oblivious to this fact. A great mass of case law has produced a maze of technical concepts obstructing the creation of joint rights, and has made for unpredictability and an inordinate lack of uniformity. Legislative response to the situation has been miserly and sporadic. The end result is that people who contemplate dual ownership need legal advice and in advance, but get it only to resolve quarrels over ownership that arise subsequently between the parties or with their representatives after death. No member of the legal profession, however, could reasonably insist upon antecedent legal consultation as a solution to the difficulties for which the law here is responsible. Rights in personality, including joint rights, most frequently originate in the course of business dealings where the law ordinarily does and should defer to usages and customs which make for efficiency, certainty, and informality without creating social objections. The law has not reacted favorably to this theme in characterizing and ascertaining claims of joint ownership. Here, then, is an area of jurisprudence begging for reform.
R. B. Townsend,
CREATION OF JOINT RIGHTS BETWEEN HUSBAND AND WIFE IN PERSONAL PROPERTY: I,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol52/iss6/2