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Avoiding probate through joint property ownership

Anyone who's been through the probate process for the estate of a deceased loved one knows how nerve-wracking and costly it can be. This is why most estate planners will want to do everything they can to save their heirs, beneficiaries and family members the burden of probate.

There are various strategies Florida residents can employ when planning their estates in order to skip the probate process for certain assets. One of those strategies involves joint property ownership.

What is joint property ownership?

Joint property ownership uses the right of survivorship to bypass the need for probate. Upon the death of the joint owner, the deceased person no longer owns his or her share of the jointly owned property, and the share immediately goes to the surviving owner. To establish joint ownership, the original owner creates a written document confirming the relationship of joint ownership. The document specifies the property involved and confirms the right of survivorship.

Different states have different rules that apply to joint ownership, but in most cases, one of the following joint ownership strategies will be appropriate:

  • Joint tenancy with the right of survivorship: This involves the legal establishment of "joint tenants." When either of the tenants dies, the other tenant who survives will absorb ownership of the deceased person's share.
  • Tenancy by the entirety: This is a special kind of joint ownership for married couples. It's the same as joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, but it's reserved for spouses.
  • Community property: This applies to married couples who live in community property states. In these states, couples can have community marital property with the right of survivorship. This serves the same purpose as tenancy by the entirety in non-community property states.

Do you want to establish a joint property relationship?

Before you set up a joint property relationship that will allow your heirs to avoid probate, it's important to understand the legal aspects of what's required. With a full understanding of how to draft and execute the documents required for joint property ownership, you can safeguard this relationship from a legal challenge later on down the road

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