Documenting the Death of a Joint Tenant

Joint tenancy is a form of co-ownership. If, under a joint tenancy, one owner dies, then his or his interest automatically transfers to the surviving owner(s). This is called the “right of survivorship”.

Colorado Law outlines how to properly document the death of a joint tenant. CRS § 38-31-102 requires the survivor record two documents: 1) a death certificate or verification of death document and 2) a supplementary affidavit.

Typically, the funeral home involved will help you order the death certificate. If a death certificate was already ordered and now can’t be located, you’ll have to apply for another death certificate through the state’s vital records office. This may take some time. If you’re working under a deadline (say, for example, a real estate transaction) make sure to start this process early.

In a supplementary affidavit, an individual who knows the decedent swears that he or she is the same person named in the last vesting deed (under which the joint tenancy was created). Earlier versions of the statute required that the individual signing the supplemental affidavit have no interest in the underlying property. This is no longer the case.

If you’re unable to locate or order a death certificate, then you can file another affidavit signed by two individuals who can swear to 1) the date and death of the decedent and 2) that the decedent is the same person named in the last vesting deed. Unlike the supplementary affidavit, those signing cannot have an interest in the underlying property.

If you’re the surviving owner under a joint tenancy, make sure to properly document your survivorship rights. Contact us here or call 720-588-9830 to talk to a real estate attorney.

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