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Estate Planning, Probate, and Elder Law

Joint Tenancy With Rights of Survivorship is Not Recognized in Louisiana

Joint Tenancy With Rights of Survivorship (JTWOS) that transfers ownership to the last survivor is not recognized in Louisiana. Because it is not recognized in Louisiana, JTWOS cannot be used as a probate avoidance technique. If you have a brokerage (investment) account registered as JTWOS, the account will not transfer automatically to the surviving owner and avoid probate. If the property is actually community property, and the account registration is titled joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, the property remains community property. A similar outcome results when two Louisiana residents, who are not married to each other, contribute property to a brokerage account. In Louisiana, the brokerage account can only be recognized as a tenants-in-common account. Typically, however, the brokerage account is erroneously titled as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Despite this, the assets in the account retain tenant-in-common status.

Another common pitfall is illustrated in the following example involving out-of-state immovable property, typically real estate. Immovable property is generally governed by the state laws of its locale. You must use caution when titling property located outside of Louisiana to ensure the property title does not frustrate your estate plan. For example, Thibodaux and his sister, Marie, own immovable property in Mississippi as joint tenants with rights of survivorship (JTWOS). Thibodaux’s will bequeaths all of his property to his children. Thibodaux predeceases Marie. Marie is now the full owner of the immovable property he owned as JTWOS in Mississippi, and Thibodaux’s children receive no portion of the property. Because the immovable property was located in Mississippi, which recognizes JTWOS, the surviving joint tenant, Marie, is the property’s full owner after Thibodaux’s death, regardless of the provisions in Thibodaux’s will.