Joint Tenants With Rights of Survivorship Explained

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If you own a home or piece of real estate property with someone else (such as a spouse), joint tenancy with rights of survivorship may help you achieve the goal of probate avoidance. Learn more about this ownership arrangement and see how an attorney may be able to help.

What Is Joint Tenancy in New York?

In simple terms, joint tenancy allows two or more people to own an equal share of the property, and each owner may enjoy full, unrestricted access to the property. For a piece of real estate to be held in joint tenancy, all owners should have an equal ownership share and must have received their share in the same manner (such as through the same deed).

Even though a joint tenant only owns a share of the property, that individual should have full possession and unlimited access to the entire property. If these conditions cannot be met, the property is not owned in joint tenancy. Instead, the ownership arrangement may be considered tenancy in common.

How Does Joint Tenancy With Rights of Survivorship Work?

Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship is an arrangement that may make it easier for an owner to transfer their share of the property to other owners after that person dies. The decedent’s share of ownership gets automatically transferred to other surviving owners without the need for probate.

For example, if a widow and her two oldest children owned a house in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, the children would automatically inherit their mother’s share of ownership after she passes away.

Can Owning Property in Joint Tenancy With Rights of Survivorship Help Avoid Probate?

Probate avoidance is one of the main advantages of owning real estate in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. Typically, any asset not solely owned by a decedent can be transferred to the surviving owner without probate.

Other assets such as investment accounts, mutual funds, and checking or savings accounts can also be owned in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship (JTWROS). This arrangement is often used between married couples or between parents and their children to streamline the process of transferring assets after one of the owners dies.

When Should I See an Attorney?

If you are considering acquiring an asset in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship with a spouse or a loved one, your first step should be to speak with an estate planning attorney. An attorney can help you understand the process and ensure this arrangement fits your overall estate planning goals.

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