What are a joint tenant’s rights to property after the other joint tenant dies?

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What are a joint tenant’s rights to property after the other joint tenant dies?

My brother was a joint tenant with my mother. When she died he said that he owned all of her personal property (tangible), as well as the house. My mother left no Will. Is this true?

Asked on June 18, 2014 under Estate Planning, New York

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If title to the house was held by your mother and brother as "joint tenants with rights of survivorship", then as the survivng co-owner he would inherit the house automatically by operation of law. If, on the other hand, there was no specific mention of survivorship rights then the law will presume that they held title as "tenants in common". This means that upon your mother's death, her share of the house would go to her heirs (since she didn't have a Will providing otherwise). As a practical matter, this means that her share would be divided among her living heirs (of which you are one).

As to her personal property, how that is distributed depends on what the nature of the proeprty was. If she had bank accounts or other assets that were jointly held, then the above rules of co-ownership would apply. If you are referring to her personal possessions, home furnishings, etc, then they would be distributed to her heirs.

Since this can all get complicated and I do not know all of the details of your situation, you should consult with a local probate attroeny. They can best adivse you in this matter.

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  There are certain types of joint tenancies that automatically give you the right to own all of the property at the time of the death of one of the tenants.  Marriage is automatic.  So, too, is where there is joint tenants "with rights of survivorship."  Please take the documents in question to an attorney to review and speak with the attorney about the circumstances surrounding the execution of the documents and your Mother's health.  Good luck.


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