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How Do You and Your Spouse Hold Title to Your Property?

MoneySense’s article, “Joint tenancy vs. tenants in common,”  explains that most property can be owned either personally or jointly. Whether you should own property jointly with a spouse or other person is based upon your intention.

Jointly held property can be held either as joint tenants or as tenants in common. Joint tenancy has what is called the right of survivorship. This means that upon the death of one of the owners, the ownership of the asset – for example, the house that you and your spouse own – passes in equal shares to surviving owner.

Tenants in common, by contrast, have their shares of an asset become part of their estate. This results in the asset being distributed after their death based on their will.

Owning property jointly may be a bit unclear because joint ownership could mean either joint tenancy or tenancy in common.

Most spouses own property as joint tenants. Their share goes directly to their surviving spouse on their death. However, in some scenarios, such as second marriage, tenancy in common may be a better choice so that the asset can be willed to the children of the deceased spouse. This situation can be complicated, so speak with an estate planning attorney.

Remember that there are tax issues related to joint ownership. Just adding a spouse’s name to an account doesn’t make the account joint for tax purposes. Adding a spouse as a joint owner on most assets – like bank accounts, investment accounts or real estate – won’t generally create any immediate tax issues, but adding them to other assets – like a private corporation – might.

Reference: MoneySense (May 10, 2016) “Joint tenancy vs. tenants in common”

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