Estate planning is more than beneficiary designations or the preparation of wills. The decisions you make about the form of ownership when you acquire property can affect how it will pass to your heirs. Sometimes, as with a joint tenancy, the form of ownership could override other provisions you might have made for it in your estate plan. Consulting with a St. Paul attorney about property ownership is a good way to avoid conflicts with your estate plan.

Estate planning involves more than just how your assets are passed on to your heirs upon your death. It also determines how you control your real and personal property items during your lifetime. One consideration in creating an estate plan for the average Ramsey County resident is how ownership of property is held.

The form of ownership can affect how property passes to your heirs under Minnesota law. The primary forms of property ownership include:

  • Sole ownership
  • Tenancy in common
  • Joint tenancy

Sole ownership is by far the most simply form. You own the property along, and upon your death, the property passes to your heirs according to either a valid will or by the laws of intestacy.

Two or more people owning property will do so as either tenants in common or as joint tenants. Tenants in common own property together with each owning a proportionate share. The death of one of the tenants in common results in the proportionate share of the deceased owner passing through his or her will or by intestacy.

A designation of ownership as joint tenants means that the parties own the property together, but upon the death of one of the joint owners, the ownership interest of the deceased owner passes by law to the surviving joint tenants. Unlike a tenancy in common or sole ownership, a probate or estate administration proceeding are not required to pass on ownership of the property to the survivors.