5.2 Nature of the Tenancy
Tenants by the entirety is most often thought as a way of holding real estate by a married couple. Indeed, although there is a statutory presumption against property held by more than one person creating a joint tenancy (R.P. § 2-117), there is a common law presumption in favor of entireties if title is in husband and wife. Columbian Carbon Co. v. Kight, 207 Md. 203, 114 A.2d 28 (1955).
Maryland has long recognized tenancy by the entireties in bank accounts and other personal property: “It is well established that this Court recognized that a tenancy by the entireties may be created in personal property … A number of our sister states are in agreement with this view.” Diamond v. Diamond, 298 Md. 24, 29, 467 A.2d 510, 513 (1983) (citations omitted).
As with joint tenancies, a tenancy by the entirety requires the “four unities:”
“A tenancy by the entireties is essentially a joint tenancy, modified by the common law theory that the husband and wife are one person.” Schilback v. Schilback, 171 Md. 405, 407, 189 A. 432 (1937); see also Schlossberg, supra, 380 F.3d at 178. Thus, just as the creation of a joint tenancy requires the four essential common law unities of interest, title, time and possession, so does the creation of a tenancy the entirety.”
Cruickshank-Wallace v. Co. Banking & Trust Co., 165 Md. App. 300, 312, 885 A.2d 403, 410 (2005). In Cruickshank-Wallace, the husband and wife executed an agreement years before the husband incurred the debt declaring their intent that all of husband’s future wages would be held as tenants by the entirety. After the husband incurred the debt, a tax refund check was sent payable to the couple and diverted into the wife’s account. The Court held that the intent of the couple alone does not create a tenants by the entirety account in the absence of the four unities. A refund check in the names of a husband and wife is not presumed to be held as tenants by the entirety regardless of whether a joint return was filed. McClelland v. Massinga, 786 F.2d 1205 (4th Cir. 1986). Therefore, even if the couple intended to create a tenants by the entirety in the refund check, they had to take steps to create the tenancy after receipt of the check. By the time of such receipt, of course, the judgment lien attached to the husband’s interest in the refund. The four unities did not exist at the time they received the refund.