Why Do Californians Hold so Many Assets in Joint Tenancy?
What is a Joint Tenancy?
When the administrator or executor of an estate starts listing assets, they often discover the decedent held property in joint tenancy.
There are several reasons for this. Many financial advisers and real estate agents encourage married/domestic partners to place assets in joint tenancy. Elderly people who are ill and or incapacitated often hold their bank account in joint tenancy. They do this with a trusted relative who will take care of their payments and savings.
A Joint Tenancy Ownership Helps Avoid Probate.
When one of the co-owners of a property in joint tenancy dies, their shares go to a surviving tenant. If there were more than one co-owner, the decedent’s part is transferred to the surviving joint tenant .
This automatic transfer of ownership means that a formal probate process is not necessary. The personal representative will need to accomplish certain formalities in order to change the owners’ name on the deed, certificate, or other record.
When the last tenant dies, the property will be included in that person’s estate and may be subject to probate.
How Do You Know What Is Joint Tenancy Property?
The personal representative, when preparing the Schedule of Assets, needs to indicate for each listed item the type of ownership. Looking at the deeds and other ownership documents, the representative will discover whether the assets are owned in joint tenancy, sole ownership, tenancy in common, or as community property. It may be prudent to check the ownership of real property with a title company, because the decedent could have made changes prior to death without telling anyone.
Talk to San Diego estate planning and probate attorney Scott Grossman about your situation and the questions you have. Call our lawyers at (888) 443-6590 or (866) 840-0000 for your FREE 30-minute telephone consultation. Also, order our FREE book The Insider’s Guide to California Probate and Trust Administration.