Owing property with another person usually means that you get half and the other person gets half. If one person were to pass away his or her interest in their half of the property would either pass to their heirs as part of their estate or, under certain conditions, may belong to the other owner through something called “the right of survivorship.”  Here are some considerations about the right of survivorship and you:

The Right of Survivorship

The Right of Survivorship means that when two or more individuals own property, and one dies, the living owners will automatically receive the deceased owner’s interest in the property.  This term is often used in connection with joint banking accounts and real property ownership. In most cases, the right of survivorship has to be referenced in the legal documents which establish ownership such as a banking agreement or real estate contract. However, there can be exceptions.


Having a survivorship provision included as part of your bank account is a good idea when you know that you want the account funds to go to the other person or people named to the account.  By including this language, you also spare your beneficiary the burden and expense of having to go through probate to inherit these funds.   While survivorship can apply to joint bank account holders, it may also extend to other signatories.  For instance, you and your spouse may have a checking account on which your adult son can also access and write checks. Depending on your banking documents, when you added your son, you may have included survivorship which means he and your spouse would become the account co-owners upon your death.  This sometimes causes problems when people have other children and want the assets to be divided, and don’t realize that placing someone else’s name on their bank account will entitle that person to the entire account after the joint owner dies (this is true even if your will or trust says that all assets should be divided equally among your children).

Houses and Other Property

In Michigan, survivorship of real property interest is ordinarily part of a “Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship.” When two people own property together, and one dies, joint tenancy with right of survivorship allows the living owner or “joint tenant” to get the other’s property interest.   Another type of ownership occurs between “Tenants by Entreaties.”  This tenancy refers to property which is owned by a married couple and will result in automatic survivorship as long as they were married at the time one of them dies.   

Survivorship does allow a property to pass outside of probate, but it is rarely the best option.  Although many people think deeded a property is a simple matter, the way it is done will have a significant impact on your family and your estate plan, so  it is extremely important to discuss all options for how property is transferred to determine which option is best for you and your family.  We have experience helping clients plan for their estates and can provide you with the advice you need. Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

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