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Joint Tenancy in Estate Property

Occasionally the issue of joint tenancy arises in an estate, usually in the context of bank accounts.  The common fact pattern is as follows:  Parent names one child as joint owner on his/her checking account for convenience, so that the child can assist with paying bills for the parent.  The Parent has language in his/her will distributing all assets of the estate equally among the children.  When the parent dies, the child named on the bank account takes the position that the bank account is solely  his property by virtue of surviving. 

While there is some case law to support the argument that individuals named on an account solely for the convenience of the owner do not become the property of the survivor, most of the case law in Mississippi suggests that the survivor becomes the sole owner of the property.  This may even be true where the property is specifically identified in the will as being divided equally.  The reasoning is that the will only controls estate property and property that is held as joint tenancy with rights of survivorship never becomes part of the probate estate if there is a survivor.  One of the key factors to look at is whether the property is actually held as JTWROS, or is simply held "jointly", which may be interpreted as "tenancy in common."  In case of the latter, half, or possibly more, of the assets in the account likely belong to the estate and not to the survivor.  Such events are a far too frequent occurance and can be avoided by simply coordinating the terms of the will with actual title to the property. 

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