Real Estate

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There are many ways that real estate and estate planning intersect. Property that is owned either jointly or in a corporation is much easier, to administer on death and with less tax. We are always verifying how property is owned. If two or people own property together – it can be owned as joint tenants or tenants in common. Joint tenants comes along with the right of survivorship. If one party dies, the property automatically goes to the survivor, outside of the will and without probate tax. However, if the ownership is tenants in common – then the deceased party’s share will go into their will and is subject to probate.

Things become more complicated in the same situation where a parent and child own joint tenants. There is much more scrutiny. There was in fact a court case in 2007 that still applies a presumption that the child/children added as joint owners are not the rightful owners. This applies unless it can be proven otherwise. The best way to get around all this trouble is simply to ¬†sign an ¬†independent agreement detailing what will happen with those assets upon death. When one of our clients is a joint tenant and their partner passes away – we still need to register a Survivorship application for them before the house is sold in order to remove the name of the deceased party. Sometimes a will maker wants to leave a gift of real estate to someone but only for a certain period of time and after that time, then the property goes to someone else. This is called a “Life Interest” to that real estate. The beneficiary doesn’t own it but has a right to use it.