Joint Tenancy remains a popular form of property ownership as people tend to elect this form of ownership to avoid probate. Many of my clients stated that when they bought a house, they chose to create a joint tenancy without really going any further as to what that entails. Joint tenancy with right of survivorship means that each person owns the entire asset (undivided equal share), not just part of it. When one owner passes away, the person's share immediately passes to the other owners in equal shares, without going through probate. We’ve all been told that joint tenancy can be a simple and inexpensive way to avoid probate, and this is sometimes true.
But careful consideration should be made for the potential tax consequences and other problems of joint tenancy ownership. Here are some of the disadvantages of joint tenancy which far outweigh the advantages:
Joint Tenancy does have its advantages, such as:
Before placing your property in a certain type of ownership, I highly recommend becoming familiar with all types of property ownership and taking into consideration your objectives and consequences to your heirs.
At the age of 57, Prince died unexpectedly in his home at Paisley Park. He left fans worldwide in shock and sadness, but he also left behind his estate that is reportedly worth at least $250 million. And his could be worth even more with his posthumously sold albums. In the four days after he passed, he sold 650,000 albums (both digital and physical), according to Nielsen Music.
The questions that now remain are who will have control of his estate? Who will make the decisions about his unreleased recordings? Who will inherit his real estate? His earnings?
According to The New York Times, Prince died intestate, meaning without a will. His sister, Tyka Nelson, filed court documents with the Carver County District Court in Minnesota to request the Court to appoint a special administrator to preserve Prince’s estate until a personal representative is appointed. Shortly after, Bremer Trust, NA, a corporate trust company, was appointed by the Court, giving the company authority to manage and supervise Prince's assets and identify his heirs.
Ms. Nelson’s court petition state that Prince died without a current spouse, kids, or surviving parents. She also states in the documents that “I do not know of the existence of a will.”
If no will or other estate planning documents turn up, Prince’s surviving family members (ie. Ms. Nelson and his half-siblings) may have to go through a costly, drawn-out family battle over his financial estate and his legacy. Because of a lack of estate planning, it is likely more than half of his estate will be paid in estate taxes and legal fees in order to determine who will inherit.
Putting an estate plan is so important to protect your loved ones and to save them the time, headache, and money in handling your estate. Please make sure you and your family have some kind of planning in place in case something happens to you.
You may have heard that it’s best to avoid probate because it's expensive and time-consuming. If you don’t have a proper estate plan in place, such as having a living trust, your estate may end up in probate. Probate in California is a court supervised process that is used to wind up a person's legal and financial affairs after death and is usually overseen by probate lawyers. In general, the greater the value of your probate assets, the higher probate will cost.
You want to make sure your loved ones are provided for and not have to worry about their inheritance being tied up in court and having to pay a big chunk of the inheritance to attorneys' fees, court costs, etc. But how much does it cost to go through the probate process?
First of all, both the attorney and the personal representative (executor or administrator) are entitled to fees from your estate. The fees are determined by state law and based on a percentage of the gross estate value. (There are no deductions on loans or set-offs). Then, there are other fees such as court costs, publication costs, accounting, appraisal fees, bond fees and other expenses. A typical estate may incur $1,000 to $3,000 in court costs alone and other mandated fees. After adding all the fees and costs, probate can cost anywhere from 3% to 8% of your assets that could have been included in your distribution to your beneficiaries.
How much are the fees paid to the attorney and personal representative?
In California, the statutory fees for the attorneys and personal representative are broken down as follows:
For example, if your only asset in your estate is a $500,000 house, the statutory fee would be $13,000 based on the full $500,000:
Sometimes, the personal representative may waive his or her fees if it's usually a family member, but he or she may change their mind after they realize how much work and time is involved. And the fees are based on the gross value of the estate. So if there is a mortgage and the heir wishes to sell the property, the inheritance would be even less.
On the other hand, a properly created and maintained living trust avoids probate. Your successor trustee winds up your financial matters, pay your last bills, and distributes your property according to your trust provisions without going to court and having to pay a significant amount in fees to the attorney and personal representative.
About the Author
Christine Chung, Esq.