Joint Ownership is a simple way to avoid the Probate Process. It is easy to do and has no costs, but there are disadvantages to joint ownership. They are:
1. Loss of control. The joint owner may close accounts or withdraw funds without your approval. In the case of real estate, the joint owner must sign all documents related to the real estate, including such documents, deeds, land contracts, mortgages, and leases.
2. Financial problems of the joint owner may become your problems. Your assets may be subject to being taken to pay debts of the joint owner.
3. The joint owner may not survive you. If the joint owner dies before you and you do not add a new joint owner, then at your death the assets must be part of the Probate Process. One solution my clients consider is adding more than one joint owner. Before you do that, consider 1 and 2 above.
4. There is no legal obligation to share. You make the assets joint with your oldest child, fully expecting that child to share equally with your other children, but he/she has no legal obligation to share. The oldest child may keep a larger share, or even all of the assets. Clients then consider making the assets joint with all of your children. Again, please review 1 and 2 above. Another problem occurs when one of your children dies before you; will the living children share with the children of your deceased child?