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Home Co-owner: Leave Share to Other Owner in Will?

RE Q&A: Is that the better plan, or should the co-owner draft a deed to safeguard his share for his friend and co-owner of the house?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: I own my home 50/50 with a friend. Neither of us has any close relatives that we would want to leave our half of the house. I read your article about owning a property with other people. Would it be OK to add something to my will stating that my friend will get my share of the house when I die rather than drafting a new deed making us joint tenants with the right of survivorship? – Evie

Answer: Unless you are married or have minor children, you can devise your part of the home to your friend in your will. But having you and your friend deed the house to yourselves as joint tenants with right of survivorship is a much better option for many reasons. The first reason is cost. Preparing a will is more expensive than a deed. Add the cost of probating your will, and it becomes much more costly. A survivorship deed would automatically vest in the surviving friend upon the first death – no need to file for probate. The deed method also avoids any issues with creditors that remain when you pass since the property goes to your friend outside of probate.

Both the deed and wills can be changed at any time by you and your friend. However, because deeds are freely available in the public records, you will know if your friend changes her mind and decides not to leave her half to you. Wills are private, and you would not know if they were changed until after her death. Also, if either of your wills gets lost or destroyed, your intentions might not be carried out. This is not an issue with a deed because it is recorded in your county’s land records. In most legal matters, such as estate planning, there are many ways to accomplish your goals, but not all methods work as well or are as efficient as others.

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