In a previous post, I have detailed what it means to own real estate as joint tenants. The lengthier terminology for this type of titling is joint tenants with rights of survivorship. This means that when two people, usually a married couple, own real estate as joint tenants, when one of the joint tenants passes away, the survivor becomes the sole owner of the piece of property – automatically – and without need of a Will or probate.
This sole ownership happens by operation of law, so nothing formal necessarily has to be done upon the first to die’s death. However, it is important to clear the title to the property with the county where the real estate is located so that it is clear who currently owns the real estate and so the survivor has the ability to easily sell or pass on the property in the future.
In Minnesota, to accomplish this clearing of title, an Affidavit of Identity and Survivorship should be filed with the county recorder or registrar where the real estate is located. The Affidavit can be completed and filed by the surviving joint tenant or someone with personal knowledge of the facts on behalf of the surviving joint tenant.
In the Affidavit, the affiant is stating the following:
- Who the decedent was (a certified death certificate should be attached)
- That the decedent was a joint tenant of real estate
- What the real estate’s legal description is (this can be obtained from the real estate deed or from the county)
- A description of the deed that references the real estate and the decedent’s ownership
Once the Affidavit is filed, then the county will issue a recorded Affidavit and update the county records accordingly. Then the survivor should have no problems in the future selling the real estate. Filing of this Affidavit can be done at anytime after the death of the first joint tenant – sometimes, the filing happens years or decades later.
If you have any questions about clearing title to real estate after the death of a joint tenant, be sure to contact an estate planning attorney in your area.