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When it comes to estate planning, most Virginia home or property owners seek to help their families avoid probate. In the past, joint ownership was the ticket to eliminating the need for probate. However, with the changes to the code, joint ownership may no longer be a way for property owners to pass on property to a joint tenant.

After a death, family members and survivors must prove the will’s authenticity. According to the Virginia courts, probate is this process. In Virginia, a will goes through probate in the circuit court of the city or county of the deceased person. In some states, probate courts may be separate. Virginia, however, does not have a separate probate court. When a will goes through probate, there are specific taxes that survivors pay. In general, probate may be a long and expensive process for the family to go through.

In joint ownership, two parties own property together. For instance, real estate, bank accounts, vehicles and even important documents qualify under joint ownership. In the past, if two parties own property and one dies, then naturally, the property remains in the hands of the survivor. The right of survivorship clause guaranteed that the surviving person keeps the property at the time of death. As of October 2019, according to the Code of Virginia, this will no longer be in effect. Instead, if one person dies, the person’s share distributes to heirs or a personal representative.

Joint ownership may not replace a will or trust. The right to survivorship will no longer be applicable to joint ownership.