Many married couples or partners that own real estate together may not understand how that can affect their estate plan. Their ownership rights are known as a ‘joint tenancy’, which has some unique attributes.
Any two people that own property as joint tenants will have a ‘right of survivorship’, meaning that when one of them dies the other will own 100% of the property. This is true regardless of what may be in the terms of a will or trust document, and there is a simplified process for transferring title by affidavit rather than probate.
While this may seem like a good method to avoid probate, there may be some tax disadvantages for married couples that have property with appreciated value. Additionally, this method does not protect the family once the second spouse passes. Also, if both were to die at the same time, the property would be administered under a valid will or trust. Because of the tax and legal implications of joint tenancy, if you are a couple that own real estate together, it is important to consult with an estate planning attorney to review the best approach for your situation.