Joint Ownership of Real Estate: Important Implications for Your Heirs

Joint Ownership of Real Estate: Important Implications for Your Heirs

Understanding joint ownership is important when it comes to protecting your assets as well as your loved ones. When you die, the way ownership of your real estate is set up will dictate whether your estate passes directly to your designated heirs or into Probate.

There are several different ways you can own real estate

  1. Sole owner and the only person on the title or deed.
  2. Own property jointly, with others on the title or deed. How your property is titled or deeded will influence who gets that property after you die, and if it will need to go into Probate before your heirs receive it.

Joint Ownership With Right of Survivorship

When you own Joint Property with Rights of Survivorship, the other person who owns the property with you will automatically receive that property if you die. This is the case even if they are not your heirs at law. The other owners on the deed can remove your name by simply showing a death certificate.

Tenancy in Common

This is another type of joint ownership. If you hold property as a tenant in common, you’ll actually own a percentage of the property. Co-owners can have equal or unequal shares in the property. For example, one person might own only 20% of the property while the other person owns 80%. If one owner dies, there must be a Will or some other type of estate plan in place to specify who they want to become the beneficiary of their ownership percentage. If there is no will to specify who inherits their ownership in the property, this will be determined under state law.

Understanding joint ownership is important, especially for married couples. For example, if you’re married, but have other heirs at law aside from your spouse, like children from a former marriage, then your spouse may not automatically inherit the property you want him/her to have. On the other hand, your spouse may become the beneficiary of property that you intended to go to your children.

Because estate planning and joint ownership can be complicated issues, you should seek the advice of an experienced estate-planning attorney or legal document assistant to help you through the process.

How long has it been since you updated your Living Trust? Stop in at one of our three California Document Preparers offices soon. We also include a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive in our Living Trust package.