Using joint ownership to avoid probate

Many people in Florida are interested in how to avoid probate when thinking about how to plan for the future. They want to be able to provide their heirs with direct access to their assets without having to go through a court procedure. There are a number of ways that property can be transferred outside of the probate system, but one of the most commonly used is joint ownership. For example, many people own their homes jointly with their spouses with a right of survivorship. If one spouse dies, the other owns the home in full without going through probate.

Some people want to extend this idea to their bank accounts or other assets by, for example, adding their children as joint owners of the accounts. People can do this relatively easily by going to the bank with the other person. This gives both people equal rights to the property, effective immediately. Once one of the two joint owners passes away, the other will receive the property right away. This also means that the joint owner can manage the account in case the other person becomes incapacitated or needs help with managing finances.

However, there are complications that can accompany joint ownership. The assets may be at risk if the joint owner is sued or owes money, even if they fully belonged to the initial owner. In addition, the joint owner has full access to the account and could remove all of the assets at any time.

People who want to avoid probate and make the process easier can work with an estate planning attorney. Joint ownership may be a good idea in some cases, but other people may be better served by options like revocable trusts. These options may help an estate planner avoid the problems associated with joint ownership and provide for a fairer distribution of assets.

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Rachel Rall, Attorney at Law, P.A.
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Jacksonville, FL 32210

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