What to do When an Estate Contains Joint Tenancy Property
If you've lost a loved one and have been named as the executor of the estate, you already know you have your work cut out for you. The probate process does not have to be difficult, but it does require identifying and protecting estate assets and managing the estate until a final distribution to the heirs, among other duties.
Identifying Joint Tenancy Property
During the course of inventorying assets, you may find that the decedent held property in a joint tenancy with someone else, whether it was a surviving spouse, adult child or someone else altogether. Some common language denoting joint tenancy assets includes:
- Joint tenants
- Jt. ten
- Payable on death to
When the decedent held property as a joint tenant, the decedent's portion of the property passes to the other joint tenant or joint tenants immediately upon his or her death. For this reason, the property never becomes property of the decedent's estate and does not pass through the will, if any.
Nonetheless, property held by the decedent as a joint tenant should be shown on the estate's tax return, so be sure to notify your accountant of the existence of the property and a reliable estimate of value as of the date of death. Generally speaking, the value of the entire property is included in the taxable estate of the first joint tenant to die, unless the surviving joint tenant contributed to the cost of the property. Certain exceptions apply if the surviving tenant is the spouse of the decedent.