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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Answering more questions about joint property

I really do try to answer readers' questions as quickly as possible but I'm the first to admit that sometimes it takes me a while to get to them all.

I continue to get tons of questions about joint tenancy of homes, and about tenancy-in-common. I'll answer a few of them briefly here (let me know if you need more expanded answers):

Q: My spouse, who is also the joint tenant of our home, has died. How do I change the title into my name only?
A: Take an original Death Certificate (not Funeral Director's Statement of Death) to the Land Titles Office. You will fill in a document called a Declaration of Surviving Joint Tenant, or variations on that in other provinces. You then hand in the document to the Land Titles Clerk, who will amend the title for you. You do not need probate for this.

Q: Two people own a house as joint tenants. What happens if one dies and the surviving joint tenant has Alzheimer's disease?
A: The surviving joint tenant still gets to own the house, with or without Alzheimer's disease, as that is the legal right given by joint tenancy. The question may really be about the logistics of the paperwork, since a person with advanced dementia is not able to understand and sign legal documents. Who can act for this person? If the person with Alzheimer's disease has an Enduring (Continuing) Power of Attorney, it may be used to deal with the land. If there is no Power of Attorney, it may be necessary for someone to be appointed as a trustee by the court.

Q: What happens if both joint tenants die at the same time and there is no Will?
A: If it is impossible to tell which of the joint tenants died first, the law says that the one who is younger is deemed to have outlived the older one. This means the joint title first transfers to that joint tenant, leaving the land in his or her name only. If there is no Will, all of the assets of that person, including the land that used to be in joint tenancy, will be distributed according to the provincial intestacy laws. In Alberta, that would mean children of the second joint tenant first. If there are no children, then his or her parents. If there are no surviving parents, then siblings. Nothing will go to the family of the older joint tenant who died first. See my earlier post here about survivorship of the younger person.

Q: Does a joint title change to tenancy-in-common if one of the joint owners remarries?
A: Nothing is going to happen automatically if one remarries. The title will stay the same until the joint owners both sign documents to bring about a change. One can't do it on his or her own. Remarriage on its own won't change anything. If this question refers to a house that was the matrimonial home and now the couple is splitting up, I assume that the house will be dealt with in the subsequent property division. In other words, you'll divide everything up and one of you will get the house. As part of that agreement, you'll both sign a Transfer of Land document that transfers the house to one owner only.


  1. My husband is the only surviving son of my father-in-law,who is leaving his estate to him,or if he dies,to be divided between our 2 children.Do I,as the wife get nothing & is this fair?

  2. Actually, it is pretty unusual for a son-in-law or daughter-in-law to receive anything under a Will. Whether or not it's fair is a subjective question, but it's certainly the usual way things are done.

    Here's the thinking behind it. What if your husband died, and you got the estate from your father-in-law. Then what if you remarried and left everything to your new husband? It's possible that the children would get nothing, especially if you die before the new husband does. If you reverse the situation, and think about your husband remarrying after your death and leaving everything to the new wife, I think you'd rather the estate went to the children.

    I blogged about this not long ago. Click on this link for a bit more on this topic:


  3. My brother and I are joint tenants and we want his name removed entirely from the house/mortgage due to his finacial problems. We're afraid the creditors/gov could come after him for the house, which I pay for the mortgaeg entirely myself. Would removing his name from title/ownership help the situation and not have the creditors/gov come after the house?

    Is there an easier way to remove his name without all the fees involved, land transfer tax, etc..?

    Would appreciate your reply. Thank you!

  4. My boyfriend which who I plan tomarry one day and I are talking about buying a house together. Currently I have $50000 for a down payment and my mother has just informed me she would like to give me a portion of my inheritance now to put towards a down payment (100000). After my boyfriends house is sold... he may only walk away with $10000. How do I protect my portion for in case the union fails or I pass away? I need to protect myself as well as my 13yr old boy. He also has 3 children from a previous marriage. Any suggestions? Thank you... Gina

  5. My parents bought their home home free & clear 1988. I was put on this deed as third person joint tenancy with my parents February 2000, 4 days prior to my mother being diagnosed terminal. January 2001 my mother passed away. I am an only child. My father and I have always had a strained relationship. I moved out of this house 3 weeks after mom passed and have only seen dad 2-3 times and spoke maybe 12 times since moms passing. I received word to contact dad's lawyer which I did and dad is clearing up his paperwork and moms since he did not do that when she passed. This lawyer would like me to have representation and hinted that my father may be trying to have his "share" of the house "willed" to someone else even though we are joint tenants on the deed. I have not lived in the province for 7+ years and am concerned that dad may be getting taken advantage if at his age (88) and possible his mental state. What is my recourse if any at this point to protect my father and myself?


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