Avoiding Joint Tenancy With Probate

Probate is the legal process in which a will is proven valid in court and has a long reputation of being long, costly and stressful. That’s why more and more people are doing everything they can to avoid probate altogether. One of the best ways to avoid probate is through joint tenancy. This is when two or more parties own property and pass to the other upon death. Here’s some further information about joint tenancy.

How Does Joint Tenancy Help You Avoid Probate?

In a joint property, the surviving owners automatically receive the deceased’s owner’s share of the property when one owner dies. Instead of going through the entire probate process to obtain the property, the survivors just have to fill out some paperwork.

Are There Any Limitations to Joint Tenancy?

Although joint tenancy can definitely have many benefits, it does come with some limitations. For example, probate can’t be avoided when the last owner dies. Once the last owner dies, the property has to go through probate before the beneficiary inherits it. The only way to avoid this is for the last owner to transfer the property to a living trust.

Joint property would also have to go through probate if both the owners died at the same time. While it’s very unlikely that this would happen, it’s still important to be prepared. 

Issues could also arise if one owner becomes incapacitated and can’t make decisions. The other owner wouldn’t have as much freedom to make choices. The best way to avoid this type of situation is to have each joint owner sign a Durable Power of Attorney document.

What Are the Drawbacks of Joint Tenancy?

One of the main drawbacks of joint tenancy is the possibility of arguments and disputes among family members. For example, if an older person adds someone as a joint tenant to a bank account just to help them deposit checks and pay bills, it could backfire. The surviving joint tenant may believe he or she is entitled to the funds in the account. This could lead to anger and resentment among other family members.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Establishing a joint tenancy agreement with the assistance of an experienced estate planning lawyer can be very helpful. He or she can look over your estate and help you decide if joint tenancy is within your best interests. A lawyer, like a probate attorney in Allentown, PA, can discuss the possible pitfalls of joint tenancy, so you can make an informed decision.


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