Joint ownership of investment property can backfire

April 18, 2008

My brother and I bought an investment property jointly years ago, before I married. If I die before he does, will my share of the property go to him or to my wife, who's my sole heir in my will?

My brother and I bought an investment property jointly years ago, before I married. If I die before he does, will my share of the property go to him or to my wife, who's my sole heir in my will?

It depends on the form of joint ownership. If you and your brother own the building as joint tenants with right of survivorship, the property will go to your brother regardless of your will's instructions. To make sure your wife gets half the value, you'd have to change ownership to "tenants in common." That way you and your brother could each dispose of your half of the property as you choose, and your share would then pass to your wife.