Avoiding Probate with Joint Tenancy in Florida
One of the most common questions an estate attorney hears is how a person can avoid probate. This legal process wherein your property is accounted for and transferred according to the terms of your will can be a lengthy and expensive ordeal. Fortunately, one of the easiest ways to save your family from the trouble of waiting out probate is to own your property through joint tenancy.
Joint tenancy is simply a fancy way of saying that you co-own your property. The legal ramifications of this are that, when you die, the property ownership passes entirely to the other owner rather than requiring a will to dispose of it. This is a great option for married couples and close family members who use and enjoy certain property together (like houses and vehicles). The best part of joint tenancy is that it does not cost you anything, so it remains one of the easiest and most convenient ways to avoid probate.
Joint tenancy works for just about any property, including cars, houses, bank accounts, stocks and more. When you own an item in joint tenancy, each of you have free access to these items as though you were full owners, but only the legal right to half of the value of the property as long as you are both alive. Once an owner dies, however, the title passes entirely to the other owner and that person does not have to worry about issues such as creditors of the other owner. You can even own something in joint tenancy with more than one other person.
There are certain drawbacks of joint tenancy, though. For instance, if you are considering using this legal method simply to avoid probate, you need to be very careful about who you choose as your joint tenant. Remember, this person will technically become an owner of your property and you want to make sure it is someone who you trust. Joint tenants own property equally, so if you add another person as a joint tenant, you are essentially giving away a half-interest in your property. In the highly unlikely event you and the other joint tenant were to die simultaneously, this property would still be subject to the same laws of probate.
To learn more about joint tenancy and other ways to avoid the difficult probate process, contact a skilled Florida estate planning attorney with BaumannKangas Estate Law.