Be Mindful of Survivorship Deeds
Did you take title to your home with a survivorship deed?
The first place to look to determine the future ownership of real estate is with the county Recorder’s office. If two or more people own real property with a survivorship deed (also called Joint Tenants With Right of Survivorship), the property passes to the other owner(s) automatically. For example, if A and B bought a house and the house was transferred to them as Joint Tenants With Rights of Survivorship, whoever dies first, A or B, the house goes to the survivor. So if A dies first, the house (with a survivorship deed) goes to B. Nothing is left for A’s spouse, children, etc. After that first death, in this case A’s death, there is no procedure to undo the transfer of ownership to B. Sometimes property is purchased with the expectation that one joint owner will outlive the other. Sometimes the relationships between joint owners fall apart. This is why it’s important for your estate planning attorney to look at your deed before he or she is drafting your estate plan.
For many joint owners (including married couples) this automatic passing of title to the survivor is a good plan. Joint ownership with right of survivorship avoids going to probate court after the death of the first owner to transfer the real estate. Many couples want this survivorship language to plan for transfer of real estate ownership but would be surprised to find out their deed doesn’t have the survivorship provision. On the other hand, couples who have blended families don’t always want their real estate passing entirely to the surviving spouse.
When doing estate planning for real estate, it’s important to look at the current ownership structure to efficiently get the property to the next intended owner. Contact me to discuss how your real estate fits into your whole estate plan.