Question 1: What is jointly owned property and why does it matter when it comes to probate?
When you die, much of your property will have to go through the probate process before someone else can legally own it. However, if you are a joint owner in property, such as owning a house as joint owner with your spouse, that property usually doesn’t have to go through probate. When a co-owner of jointly owned property dies, the remaining owner still retains ownership rights.
Question 2: Are there different types of jointly owned property?
Yes. Depending on where you live, you may be able to own property as tenants in common, joint tenants with the right of survivorship, or as tenants by the entirety. Each of these forms of ownership has its own positives and negatives, though only property held by tenants in common will have to go through probate. All other types allow you to avoid probate once a co-owner dies.
Question 3: Is having jointly owned property the best way to avoid probate?
Not really. Though jointly owned property will bypass probate when one of the co-owners dies, the property will have to go through probate once the final co-owner dies. (This is because there is only one owner left so the joint-ownership no longer exists.) One of the best ways to avoid probate is through a revocable living trust, though there are other methods that may suit your individual needs better. Talk to your estate planning attorney for more information.