The Perils of Pauline (or Anyone): Joint Tenancy in Virginia


Movie-PerilsOfPauline-RRTracks-01Eliminating the need for probate is a goal for many clients. Joint tenancy, a form of co-ownership, is one tool that can help achieve this goal.

When one co-owner dies, his interest in the real property automatically passes to the surviving co-owner, thereby, eliminating the need for probate. Joint tenancy can, however, have its perils and must not be entered into lightly.

Control Issues: By providing someone with co-ownership, you give them control of your asset. For example, if you add another person as co-owner of your home, you cannot sell or mortgage the home unless that person agrees.

Creditor Issues: If creditors seek out your co-owner for outstanding debts owed, the creditors may be able to obtain part of your home or bank account held in joint tenancy.

Relationship Issues: If you and your co-owner experience a falling out, the co-owner may be able to take all of the money out of the bank account.

Substitute for Will Issues: Parents of several children may place one child’s name on an account and assume she will divide assets equally among all siblings. Unfortunately, this method provides no stipulations over control of the money. The surviving co-owner can do with it what she pleases, with no legal obligation.

Tax Issues: Careful planning to eliminate or reduce estate taxes can be completely thwarted by a joint tenancy that passes property outright to a surviving joint owner.

Long-term Care Issues: Thoughtful planning to reduce long-term care financing can also be thwarted by a joint tenancy that passes property outright to a surviving joint owner.

Marriage Issues: Individual property may become marital property once it is transferred into a joint tenancy.

You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: estate planning in Williamsburg, Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.


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We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
  • We launched the rollout of our on-demand webinar early so that new clients and our allied professionals can view the important component parts of ‘an estate plan that works’ at their convenience.  That is available on our website.
  • Live video workshops will be produced as quickly as possible and certainly ahead of our previous schedule; we will keep you posted as these events become available. Given the ‘boutique’ nature of the firm, we rarely have more than ten people in our office including team members at any one time. During this period of ‘social distancing,’ we promise to have no more than 8 people at any time.   This allows us to comply with the Governor’s directive to limit in-person gatherings.
  • The best way to communicate with us is still by phone during regular office hours of 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, or, you can email any of our team members (that is, their first name followed by @zarembalaw.com).  We will respond to these emails as quickly as possible.
  • Please continue to follow the directives of our local, state, and federal agencies. For your health and in consideration of our team who is assisting you, if you’ve scheduled an office appointment or planned to drop off paperwork and are experiencing a fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath, please contact your primary care doctor for guidance and then our office to reschedule.

Thank you, Walt and the Zaremba Team

Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.