Joint ownership arrangements
Two (or more) persons can own property equally, and at the death of one, the other becomes the sole owner. This type of ownership is called joint tenancy with rights of survivorship (JTWRS). A JTWRS arrangement between spouses is known as tenancy by the entirety in certain states, and a handful of states have a form of joint ownership known as community property.
Caution: There is another type of joint ownership called tenancy in common where there is no right of survivorship. Property held as tenancy in common will not pass to a joint owner automatically, although you can leave your interest in the property to your heirs in your will.
You may find joint ownership arrangements are useful and convenient with some types of property, but may not be desirable with all of your property. For example, having a joint checking account ensures that, upon your death, an heir will have immediate access to needed cash. And owning an out-of state residence jointly (e.g., a vacation home) can avoid an ancillary probate process in that state. But it may not be practical to own property jointly where frequent transactions are involved (e.g., your investment portfolio or business assets) because you may need the joint owner's approval and signature for each transaction.
There are some other disadvantages to joint ownership arrangements, including: (1) your co-owner has immediate access to your property, (2) naming someone who is not your spouse as co-owner may trigger gift tax consequences, and (3) if the co-owner has debt problems, creditors may go after the co-owner's share.
Caution: Unlike with most other types of property, a co-owner of your checking or savings account can withdraw the entire balance without your knowledge or consent.