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  • John Stevens

How Joint Ownership Can Land Your Family in Court


Ronnie and Jane had two children. After Ronnie and Jane divorced, Ronnie remarried. In the divorce, Ronnie got the California ranch. Before Ronnie got sick, he added Nancy, his second wife, to the deed to the ranch. After he died, his children were shocked to learn that Nancy now owned the property, even though their father had always promised it would stay in the family and go to the two of them.


It's easy to add a co-owner's name to a deed. But it has consequences.

  • Removing someone's name off a title can be difficult. If the person does not agree, you could end up in court.

  • Your property is now exposed to the other owner's debt and obligations. For example, giving your adult son title to your home helps avoid probate but if he is successfully sued, or gets divorced, or cannot pay his medical bills, you could be forced to sell your home.

  • There could be serious gift and/or income tax consequences.

  • If you add a minor gets joint ownership, the only way to sell or refinance the property is to undergo a legal guardianship proceeding in court.

  • If you need to sell or refinance and your co-owner is disabled and unable to conduct business, you'll have to ask a court to appoint someone to sign for your incapacitated co-owner (even if that co-owner is your spouse). Once the court gets involved, it usually stays involved to protect the incapacitated owner's interest until the incapacity ends or the person dies.

Actions to Consider

  • To avoid both inconvenience and tragedy, call our office immediately to set up an appointment and have your asset ownership reviewed.

  • We will review your asset ownership and explain what will happen to your assets if you become disabled and when you die.

  • We will show you how to own your assets to best ensure your estate plan works, meaning it does what you think it's going to do.

Joint ownership with a sibling, business partner, child, spouse, or anyone else, puts your assets and your children's inheritance at risk. It may cause significant and unnecessary taxes and cause your estate plan to fail. To avoid unintended consequences, you are welcome to call and set up a consultation.


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