Joint Tenancy: The Estate Lawyer’s Continuing Burden

The discussion which follows will be divided into three major parts. First, it will be important to see why so much real and personal property remains in joint tenancy between husband and wife or in entireties tenancy. It has been almost eighteen years since Congress eliminated the necessity of holding property in this form in order to split income therefrom for income tax purposes. Is inertia the only reason for the popularity of joint ownership, or are there other reasons? Second, we shall review the familiar but false assumptions most laymen (and even a few attorneys) commonly make regarding the advantages of joint ownership. Space limitations will prevent an exhaustive review, but, as we have noted, the tax problems of joint ownership are the constant and continuing subject of excellent treatises and articles. Third, an investigation and appraisal will be made of some alternatives to joint ownership which are more favorable from the standpoint of estate taxes.