Joint Property Ownership On Death; Transferring Property Ownership

Joint Property Ownership On Death; Transferring Property Ownership

Joint Property Ownership On Death

What Happens To Jointly Owned Property On Death?

Normally when property is purchased jointly there is a survivorship clause, meaning that on the death of one of the joint owners, their share in the property automatically passes to the survivor(s). No court action is necessary for the surviving owner to take the property.

All that the surviving owner needs to do, is file the death certificate with the Land Registry to update the property records.

Joint tenancy creates a right of survivorship which means that if any one of the joint tenants dies, the remainder of the property is automatically transferred to the surviving owner. The deceased person’s interest in the property ceases to exist and cannot be inherited by their heirs.

The doctrine of survivorship in joint tenancies states that when one of the tenants passes on, the remaining tenant automatically becomes the sole owner and the property is not up for distribution. This avoids the property having to go through probate on the death of each owner.

Some issues to consider with joint property ownership are divorce proceedings if the co-owner is married, the co-owner draining any joint bank accounts, and potential gift tax or income tax problems.

For real estate, a surviving owner must submit a document to be kept on record in the county’s recorder office, showing one joint owner has passed away and that the survivor who filed the document is now the property’s sole owner. However, it’s important to note that joint tenancy can have some drawbacks.

For instance, even if the deceased was hoping to pass the value of the property to designated heirs, there is no legal obligation for the survivor to honor that request. Also, when the last co-owner dies, the property will go through probate unless that owner took some other probate-avoiding measure.

What Happens To Jointly Owned Property If Both Owners Die

If both owners of a jointly owned property die, the fate of the property depends on the type of joint ownership and the presence of a will or other testamentary document.

In the case of joint tenancy or tenancy by entirety, the property does not automatically pass to any surviving parties, as there are none. Instead, the property becomes part of the deceased owners’ estates and is distributed according to their wills or, if no wills exist, according to the laws of intestate succession of the state.

If the property was owned as “tenants in common”, each owner’s share of the property will pass according to his/her will or other testamentary document such as a trust. If an owner dies without a will or trust, then the property passes under the intestacy laws of the state.

In the absence of a will or other testamentary document, the property is distributed according to the laws of intestate succession, which vary by state but generally prioritize spouses, children, and other close relatives.

If the property was owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship or as tenants by entirety, and both owners die simultaneously, the property must go through probate as normal. In any case, it is recommended to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to understand the specific laws and procedures applicable in your state.

The Process Of Transferring Property Ownership Upon The Death Of A Co-Owner

The process for transferring jointly owned property after the death of both owners can be complex and depends on the type of joint ownership. Here is a summary of the process for transferring property ownership when a co-owner dies:

  • For property owned in joint tenancy, the deceased owner’s interest automatically transfers to the surviving owner(s). The survivor needs to file an affidavit of survivorship and provide a death certificate to record the transfer. No probate is required.
  • For property owned as tenants in common, the deceased owner’s interest becomes part of their estate. It does not automatically transfer to the co-owners. The inheritor must go through probate to claim the deceased’s interest in the property.
  • For jointly owned bank accounts and investments like stocks, the assets pass directly to the surviving co-owner outside of probate. The bank/brokerage will require documentation like a death certificate.
  • If the co-owners are married, there may be a right of survivorship depending on state law. The surviving spouse may be able to claim the property without probate.
  • If co-owners had a written agreement specifying transfer procedures, those directives would determine the transfer process.
  • Minor co-owners would receive their interest through a conservatorship.
  • Any co-owner debts tied to the property must be handled appropriately.

How To Remove A Deceased Person From Property Title?

Here are a few steps to remove a deceased person from a property title:

  • Obtain a certified copy of the death certificate. This will serve as legal proof of the person’s death.
  • Contact the county recorder’s office where the property is located to find out the specific process for your area. Often this involves filing an affidavit of death or a survivorship deed.
  • If there was joint tenancy with right of survivorship on the title, the ownership typically transfers automatically to the surviving owner(s). You’ll just need the death certificate to record the change.
  • If the title was held as tenants in common, you may need to go through probate court to transfer the deceased’s interest. The estate executor would need to file the necessary paperwork.
  • A quitclaim deed signed by the heirs can also remove a deceased person from the title. All heirs would need to agree and sign the deed.
  • If the property has an outstanding mortgage, you’ll need to contact the lender to request they remove the deceased from the loan.
  • Make sure to update the property tax records, insurance policies, etc. to reflect the ownership changes.
  • Record the new deed with the county to formally update the title and ownership.

The full process can take several months. Seek legal assistance if you need help navigating the specifics for your situation.

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