Our Atlanta, Georgia estate law firm uses multiple vehicles when creating and an estate plan. One common estate planning tool involves joint ownership of an asset. Joint ownership of property means legal title is in two or more names. Generally this means upon the death of one legal owner, the property passes by operation of law to the other legal owner. Sometimes this type of ownership makes a lot of sense. For example, a husband and wife own their home in joint names. Upon the death of the first spouse, the home passes by operation of law to the surviving spouse.
There is no probate for most jointly owned property. There is no court involvement in the surviving joint owner assuming full legal title to the jointly owned property. Again, many times this is exactly what the decedent wants and the survivor has no probate concerns.
The lack of probate and the ease of property transfer are among the reasons a mother or father frequently add a child’s name to the mother’s or father’s bank account. But remember upon death the bank account, certificate of deposit or whatever property is held in joint names with a child transfers by operation of law to that child alone.
I’ve seen many surviving spouses name their children as equal beneficiaries in their will, but then put most if not all of their assets in joint names with just one child. Guess what happens on death? Despite the will directing that all the children share equally in the assets, there are no assets in the probate estate upon which the will operates to pass legal title. Instead, all the assets pass by operation of law solely to the child who is named as a joint owner.
Joint ownership can be a trap if you’re not careful and that is why the engagement of an estate planning attorney is essential to eliminate the many traps that you can fall into. In Atlanta, GA The Libby Law Firm crafts each estate plan with the individual in mind setting our goals for the minimum amount of probate and expense with the maximum amount of client satisfaction.
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