Not Understanding Survivorship Clauses

This is probably the most common cause of accidental disinheritance – the usage of joint survivorship clauses.

Here is the most common scenario: Robert is married to Carole and they have two children, Mike and Mark.  Their estate planning consisted of the “cheap and easy” option.  They titled everything in joint tenancy.  So, once one of them were to die, the other would immediately be passed title.  After a long and successful marriage, Robert dies at the ripe old age of 75.  Carole, after several years on her own, finally meets a great new guy, Theodore.  Theodore is a wonderful man to Carole.  The only problem is that Theodore’s daughter, Esmerelda, does not get along with Mark and Mike.

Carole dies ten years later.  After her funeral, Mark and Mike discover that she and Theodore had titled everything in joint tenancy, the same and Robert and Carole had.  Carole’s will did leave everything to Mark and Mike, but the only property that passes under the will are a couple of personal items, like pictures.  Theodore does want to make things “right,” but dies before he can transfer title to Mark and Mike.

Esmerelda is the sole heir under Theodore’s will.  She takes all of the assets, including the family home that Mark and Mike grew up in and sells them off.  She doesn’t give Mark and Mike any money.

Mark and Mike go to a local attorney to discuss the inheritance laws.  He informs them that, unfortunately, Esmerelda is the rightful owner of the property.  Mark and Mike are devastated as they were promised the home and their Dad’s coin collection.

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