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Joint tenancy and the unmarried couple's estate plan

While it is difficult to quantify exactly why, there are areas in California that have long been known to attract individuals who prefer non-traditional ways of life. Often, this includes couples who choose to remain together without ever becoming legally married. Being in a long-term unmarried couple can present some difficulties when it comes to estate planning, but nothing that can't be overcome with proper knowledge of the law.

One of the simplest components of estate planning that an unmarried couple can undertake is purchasing a home as joint tenants. For estate planning purposes, joint tenancy allows two individuals to both own the same piece of property, without having to divide up the ownership into separate shares. In this way, both members of the relationship are complete owners of the property.

One particular facet of joint tenancy that is especially useful to unmarried couples for estate planning purposes is the the built-in right of survivorship. The right of survivorship specifies that when one of the owners passes away, the title to the property automatically passes to surviving owner without being pushed through probate. Without the right of survivorship for joint tenants, if a member of the unmarried couple passes away without a will that specifies otherwise, the property would go through probate and be passed on to other legal heirs.

This is, of course, only one small part of the complicated puzzle of estate planning. If you are considering creating an estate plan to ensure that your wishes for your property are honored when you pass away, the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney can help you create the perfect document for you needs.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Top 10 Reasons for Unmarried Partners to Own Property as Joint Tenants," accessed Oct. 28, 2016

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