Barlow & Flake

Avoiding Probate in Cases of Joint-Ownership

One question that comes up frequently in the probate world is “Do I have to go through probate when my spouse dies?

It’s an understandable concern, but one which need not keep you up at night. If you own assets with somebody else, including, obviously, your spouse, it’s easy to avoid probate at the death of the first co-owner. The key is that assets ought to be held in the names of both persons. For example, your home and bank accounts should have both of you listed. Similarly, life insurance policies should clearly list beneficiaries. This keeps the value of the deceased person’s estate from rising over 20,000 dollars, where probate might be required.

Most of the time “joint tenants,” or “joint survivorship” is the default state of property and assets, but it’s important to make sure your largest assets are co-owned in a formal way so that when one person dies, ownership passes to the other party.

Usually this is just a matter of filling out the right paperwork. It’s a small hassle to avoid the expense and confusion of probate.