Another common way to
prearrange transfer of title to particular property upon death is
through joint tenancy.
The term "joint
tenancy" is actually short for the phrase "joint tenants with full
rights of survivorship and not as tenant-in-common."
Property owned in
joint tenancy does not pass to beneficiaries named in the decedent's
Will. Title to the property held in joint tenancy passes directly
to the surviving joint tenant(s) by operation of law upon the death
of the first joint tenant.
The concept of joint
tenancy is that two or more people each own an undivided fractional
interest in the whole of the property. This means, for example,
that the joint tenant owners have equal legal rights to the use,
benefit and enjoyment of the entire property.
This form of
ownership is most frequently seen among married couples, but its use
is not limited to people who are married to each other. Examples of
assets commonly held in joint tenancy are the marital homestead, the
family car(s), and the household checking and savings accounts.
However, virtually any type of property that has written evidence of
title can be held in joint tenancy.
Joint tenancy is
said to be “fragile.” Either party can “sever” the joint tenancy at
any time. The act or consent of the other joint tenant is not
An example is
withdrawing the entire amount from a bank account. Either joint
tenant can take the entire amount out of the account so long as that
joint tenant’s name and signature are on the account.
Placing all of your
property in joint tenancy with your spouse does not eliminate the
need for you to have a Will. You should consult your lawyer to
determine what is the proper course for your circumstances.
page was written on 04190.
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