Property that is owned jointly with rights of survivorship passes automatically to the survivor when one of the joint tenants dies. While the probate process is not needed to transfer title to the survivor, there are several points to remember. The joint property is part of the estate for federal estate tax purposes. In most states, joint property is subject to the estate tax and inheritance tax requirements. Although the joint property may be free from tax under the applicable tax law because it passes to a spouse or because the estate is small, it cannot be assumed that the “avoidance of probate” also means the “avoidance of taxes.”

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In some states, it may be important to file a document with the local county recorder or in the register of deeds to show that the joint owner has died and is no longer one of the joint owners of the property. This requirement can be handled by an executor, successor trustee, or surviving joint owner of the property.

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