Survivorship – no they didn’t sing eye of the tiger!

We have discussed the administration of a deceased estate where the assets were fully owned by the deceased alone and pass according to their Will.

Where an asset is held by two or more people under joint tenancy it is passed via the right of survivorship, this means that on the death of one of the owners their share automatically passes to the surviving owner or owners without having to wait for probate.

Assets that are held in joint tenancy include, (but are not limited to) property, bank accounts, and shares. A joint tenants interest in the asset cannot be gifted in a will unless the other joint tenant has already died.

A joint tenancy is created at the time the asset is purchased with each owner having the same rights and responsibilities relating to the asset – it is the unified nature of a joint tenancy that enables the ‘right of survivorship’.

Essentially when one joint tenant dies their interest ceases and the remaining joint tenants share expands by the value of that interest. When there is one survivor the joint tenancy has ended and the survivor becomes the full owner of the whole property

If there is not the unity of title, time and interest the co-ownership is a tenancy-in-common. Tenants in Common are able to gift their share of the asset to who ever they choose. If there is a will, according to the will, the estate is administered according to a formula set out in legislation.

Although Joint Tenants property interests do not form part of their estate if they are survived by other joint tenants it is vital that you plan for the future that recognises your wishes. After all you may be in a position where you are the sole survivor of a joint tenancy and wish to direct the property but this is not possible if you do not make a will.

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