May 10th, 2017

Considerations Before Transferring Title or Accounts into Joint Names

Sometimes our estate planning clients ask us about transferring title to their real estate property or accounts into joint names, usually with one or more of their children. While that’s sometimes good planning, frequently it’s not. It is important that you talk to your estate planning attorney before transferring title into joint names, and consider the following:

  1. Giving up control of the property. If you transfer the deed into joint names you can’t sell or refinance the property without the joint owner agreeing, and maybe even insisting on some of the sale or refinancing proceeds.
  2. Exposing the property or accounts to new risks. If one of your co-owner’s children gets into financial trouble, the child’s creditors can take some or possibly all of the property or accounts. If one of your co-owner’s children has marital trouble, the child’s spouse might make a claim against some of the value of the joint property or accounts. Depending on exactly how the bank or broker titles a joint account, a child ( that you could possibly have a disagreement or falling out with in the future) could withdraw all the money.
  3. Paying Pennsylvania inheritance tax on your own money. If the co-owner child dies before you, his or her share of the property is subject to Pennsylvania inheritance tax. This tax applies against the partial share of the now-deceased child and it doesn’t matter whose money was put into the joint account. For example, if the joint property or accounts are in your name and two of your children’s names and one of your children dies, one-third of the joint property or accounts is subject to Pennsylvania inheritance tax.
  4. Creating unfairness between children. If you have more than one child but only put one child’s name on a joint account or joint property, the money or the property belongs to that child at your death and he or she has no obligation to share it with the other children.

Before transferring titles into joint names, it is important to consider whether it is the best decision for you and your family. If your reasoning is to ensure that your child can take care of your money or property if you become disabled, it’s usually not the best solution. A better option may be to name the child as your agent under a Power of Attorney. It is best to have this conversation with an experienced estate planning attorney so that you can determine the best solution for your family.


Attorney Michael Henry frequently counsels families in sophisticated estate planning, estate administration, and tax matters. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact Mike at 610.820.5450 or mhenry@steve.framework30a.com.