Understanding Ownership of Assets

For certain assets, you might prefer to hold title as “joint tenants with right of survivorship (JTWROS).” That gives the joint owners access to such assets, such as bank accounts. After one co-owner dies, the survivor or survivors inherit automatically.

Setting up property to be held as JTWROS is simple and inexpensive. For the elderly, adding a younger person as joint owner can make it easier to handle investments, write checks to pay bills, and so on, especially if the older owner becomes unable to manage his or her finances. What’s more, property held as JTWROS passes to the surviving co-owner or owners without having to go through probate.

You need to be sure that a joint owner is someone you trust, in order to protect yourself from theft. Also, holding assets as JTWROS means that they will be inherited by your co-owner, no matter what it says in your will. Thus, you should use JTWROS only for assets that you absolutely want your co-owner to inherit. Seniors who are concerned about possible incapacity can name a younger relative as joint owner of a checking account where modest amounts are kept, so bills can be paid, if necessary.