Many people don’t realize that their Wills can’t control what happens to some of their most important assets. Houses, retirement accounts, proceeds from life insurance policies, and brokerage and bank accounts can all pass to others, regardless of what your will might say.
Your will also doesn’t affect certain property that you own with others. Some property for example, is titled so that the surviving owners automatically inherit the property when one owner dies. Known as “joint tenancy with rights of survivorship”, houses are commonly owned this way, as are brokerage accounts, bank accounts, and vehicles. Any property owned in this way will go to the surviving owner(s) and isn’t governed by your Will.
Some obvious advantages of joint tenancy include the ease of title transfers between owners and a reduction in creditors’ claims since creditors cannot attach to this type of property unless they have a claim against all the owners or it was used as collateral. However there are a number of disadvantages to joint tenancy also. There is a lack of control in property transfer, the possibility of undesirable property transfers and numerous tax disadvantages, just to name a few.
Before deciding how you’d like your property to be titled, you should consider how ownership will affect your estate plan. An estate planning attorney will be happy to assist you with any preparations necessary in order to make the transition of your estate as easy as possible for your loved ones.