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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Don't forget to transfer joint title to surviving owner when one passes away

Most people realize that when one joint owner passes away, the other one - the surviving joint tenant - automatically owns the property. This right of survivorship is the main reason that people own property in joint ownership in the first place. However, many surviving joint tenants don't realize that the Land Titles Office isn't going to change the title to the property automatically. The surviving joint tenant has to ask them to do that.

In order to change the title from joint owners to the surviving owner, that surviving owner will have to fill in a brief document at the Land Titles Office (or lawyer's office). Along with the document, the Land Titles Office will require an original Death Certificate. It must be the government-issued Death Certificate and not the Funeral Director's Statement of Death. In the document, the surviving owner will say that the other owner has passed away, offering the Death Certificate as proof, and ask that the title be amended to show only one name.

I've heard a number of surviving owners and a few executors ask why they should bother. Here's why. Say Jack and Janet are married and they put their home into joint names. Janet passes away and her Will doesn't need to be probated because everything is in joint names with Jack. He doesn't bother taking Janet's name off the title. Years later, Jack dies and his executor tries to sell the house. Jack's executor can sign on his behalf because Jack's Will was probated. But who can sign for Janet? Her name is still on the title. Jack's executor would then have to get Janet's Will probated too because there is no longer a surviving owner.

That is assuming her Will can still be found and hasn't been destroyed. And assuming that she named an executor other than the deceased Jack. You can see how a simple transaction all of a sudden becomes REALLY complicated.

The best idea is to file the necessary document at the Land Titles Office as soon as may be practical after the death of the first joint owner.

1 comment:

  1. This is very helpful information! People must educate themselves about this matter because transferring ownership can be quite taxing. There are two ways to transfer an ownership if the property owner dies. First, the surviving joint tenant is automatically entitled to the property. Second, the property is transferred to an executor of their will.


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