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William Rambaum, PA Clearwater & Oldsmar Elder Law Attorney

The Benefits of Tenancy by the Entirety Extend Beyond Probate


If you and a business partner own an item of property together, there is usually a written document specifying which partner owns what percent of the property.  For example, maybe you have 60 percent ownership, and your partner has 40 percent ownership.  Likewise, when family members jointly own property, there are usually ownership percentages for each owner.  For example, if you and your three siblings inherited a house from your parents, your parents’ will might have specified that each of you owns 25 percent.  Joint ownership of property by a married couple is different, though, or at least it can be.  Through a type of joint ownership called tenancy by the entirety, it is possible for both spouses to own 100 percent of the property.  Talk to a Central Florida estate planning lawyer about how tenancy by the entirety affects your estate plan.

How Tenancy by the Entirety Makes Things Simpler

Tenancy by the entirety means that two spouses jointly own an item of property, usually a house, and each spouse is 100 percent owner of the property.  When the first spouse dies, the second spouse remains 100 percent owner of the property; it does not become part of the estate of the first spouse.  For this reason, tenancy by the entirety is sometimes called “joint ownership with right of survivorship plus marriage.”  The benefits of tenancy by the entirety extend beyond the fact that it makes inheriting a property from your spouse painless; it also protects the property, and you as its 100 percent owner, from your spouse’s debts.  You cannot become tenants by the entirety by adding your spouse’s name to the property; the option is only available for property that you acquired together during your marriage.

A Probate Dispute Over Property Owned as Tenants by the Entirety

Tenancy by the entirety determines what happens when one spouse dies, but it does not determine what happens after both spouses have died.  Therefore, in your wills, you must both account for what will happen to the property after you die if you survive your spouse.  When Virginia and Mitchell retired to Florida in 1972, they bought a Key Biscayne condominium, which they owned as tenants by the entirety.  In 1979, they revised their estate plans by signing a warranty deed, which changed the ownership of the condo.  They agreed that Virginia would be 100 percent owner, and if Mitchell survived her, he would have life estate, which means that he would be able to live in the condo for the rest of his life.  They also agreed that Virginia’s sister Betty would inherit the condo.  This is all perfectly good estate planning, but it was not 100 effective at preventing disputes.  Because Virginia, Mitchell, and Betty all died within two years of each other, a dispute between Mitchell’s nephew and Betty’s daughter over whether the warranty deed was valid or whether Virginia and Mitchell were still tenants by the entirety when Virginia died.

Contact an Attorney Today for Help

A Clearwater estate planning lawyer can help you decide how to account for property you own as tenants by the entirety in your estate plan.  Contact William Rambaum for help with your case.


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