Rights & Money

Joint Ownership and Estate Planning

Find out what happens when one of two joint owners passes on

A popular regular feature in Good Times magazine is “Your Questions,” where Olev Edur provides answers to questions from our readers regarding their rights, personal finance, and estate planning. Here’s one on joint ownership of property.

Q. Many years ago, our mother made my brother and I joint owners of her house. After she passed away, we just left everything as it was. If I should pass away, would the house go to my brother in its entirety, or would my half go into my estate?

A. Since you’re joint owners, if either of you should pass away, that owner’s share would automatically and immediately revert to the surviving owner, bypassing the estate as well as the need for probate. You don’t say whether this would be good or bad—you may, for example, prefer to leave your half of the property to one of your own kids—but changing the joint ownership arrangement could be difficult, and costly.

You might be able to make your child a joint owner, too, so that he or she would become a half-owner when you pass away. Or, you might be able to get your brother to sell you his half, and in this way your child could come to own the entire property. But if you do want to make such a change, I suggest you discuss the matter with an experienced estate lawyer first, to ensure that it is done properly and in accordance with the laws in your province.

Photo: iStock/cyano66.