by Laurie Ohall, Tampa will and trust lawyer
It is true that any assets that are owned jointly with rights of survivorship in Florida will pass directly to the joint owner without having to go through Hillsborough County probate when the first owner passes away?
Technically, this means that there is no need to have a Will or other estate planning documents to direct how a property held in joint tenancy should be passed down when you are gone. However, this is just one scenario; many other issues can arise with properties held in joint tenancy that could complicate the succession of such assets or even backfire altogether. Here are some issues that you’ll want to take into account before you decide to skip out on creating a plan for assets held jointly:
Both owners could die at the same time
Chances are that you spend quite a bit of time with your spouse or loved one whom you own property with jointly. Dying at the same time can, and often does, happen. In this case, you would need a will to specify who should take ownership of your asset if both you and your joint owner pass away together. Otherwise, a judge who doesn’t know you or your wishes will be forced to make this decision on your behalf according to Florida probate law.
Your spouse could remarry after you pass away
As unpleasant as it is to think about, consider the possibility that you predecease your spouse and he or she remarries and names their new spouse as joint tenant on the home. When your spouse dies, the new spouse gets the property free and clear, and your children would be left with nothing. Most people don’t think about this possibility, yet it happens every day because so many people rely on joint tenancy and choose to not do estate planning.
You could change your mind
Our Tampa Will and Trust lawyers often see this situation where someone names their child or other family members as joint tenant on their home. But, what if you add someone as a joint tenant and later change your mind? Most people don’t realize that the joint tenant has to agree to be removed from the title. it’s very difficult to remove someone’s name from the title if they are not willing. Not to mention, if your joint tenant is sued or goes through a divorce, the asset you share with him or her is on the line.
As with most things related to estate planning, the real answer to the question of whether or not you need estate planning documents to handle an asset that’s held in joint tenancy is, “it depends.” Before you decide that you do not need a will and choose to rely on joint tenancy to avoid probate, we’d encourage you to sit down with an experienced Florida will lawyer to determine if this is the best choice for you and your family. If we can help you get started, simply call our Brandon law office at (813) 438-8503 to schedule a consultation.