A survivorship deed is generally used when two or more people own property. When one owner dies, the title to the property automatically transfers to the other owner(s). The property cannot be transferred under a will to the decendent's heirs. Joint tenancy deeds are commonly used between spouses. If one spouse dies, title transfers to the other spouse. There are a small number of states that also recognize tenancy by the entirety or community property ownership between a husband and wife, which are forms of joint tenancy. A survivorship interest is also commonly used between parents and children or between siblings. You can also hold title with a survivorship interest with someone other than your spouse or family member. Survivorship deed laws are different in each state. You should check your state laws and speak with an estate planning attorney regarding acquiring and transferring property.
Transfer of Ownership Not Held as Joint Tenants
Normally, the transfer of ownership that is not held as joint tenants is transferred by:
- Intestate law (no will)
Tenancy in common is also a form of ownership when there are two or more owners. When an owner dies, the owner’s interest goes to the owner's heirs or person(s) named in their will. Life estate is also a form of ownership. A life estate is generally created so that the owner can reside on the property during their life. After their death, the property ownership transfers to a third party such as a family member or friend.
Recording the Deed
The survivorship deed should be recorded in the County Recorder’s Office where the property is located. The county office may also be referred to as the Land Registry Office or Registrar of Deeds depending on the name used in your state. The owner’s interests are not fully protected until the deed is recorded. Priority of claims against the property are based upon recording dates.
Risks Associated with Joint Tenancy
There are some risks associated with joint tenancy such as:
- A survivorship deed may cause your property to go to someone other than your heirs.
- A creditor of the other joint tenant owner or owners may be able to take the property in connection with collecting a debt against a joint owner.
You should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of joint tenancy ownership with your attorney.
Consult with an Estate Planning Attorney
Transferring property is complicated. You should consult with an estate planning attorney who can advise you of the best way to hold title to your property. The attorney is an expert at estate planning laws and can answer your questions.