For the most part few people enter into the legal milieu without the appropriate representation. However, when it comes to estate planning far too many individuals feel as though they don’t need any legal assistance.
This is partially because of the fact that they have heard about ways of transferring assets that appear to be very simple and straightforward. One of these would be the addition of a co-owner to your bank and/or brokerage accounts. You could also share ownership of your home with someone else.
If you have a joint owner and you die this owner becomes the only owner, and the asset or assets in question are indeed now his or her property. However, the joint owner owned the property before you passed away as well, and this is where the problems lie.
When you make someone the joint owner of your assets he or she can do anything that you can do with the resources. A joint owner could write a check for the entirety of the account balance and go to Las Vegas with it and it would be perfectly legal.
Even if your co-owner was completely trustworthy, what if this individual was the target of a lawsuit? The funds in the jointly owned accounts would be fair game for litigants.
The same is true of creditors or former spouses seeking favorable financial settlements.
These are just a couple of things to think about, but there are other potential difficulties that can arise if you decide to use joint ownership as a substitute for a properly prepared estate plan.
If you set aside a little bit of time and schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer you can hear about all of your options and make intelligent and informed choices. On the other hand, if you buy into overly simplistic suggestions offered by laypeople you may pay a considerable price.
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