When one of the co-owners dies in a JTWROS, the surviving co-owner(s) automatically assumes the decedent’s share.
In most cases, a JTWROS can be established if the co-owners acquire the property at the same time, have the same title on the asset, have an equal share in the property, and have the same right to possess the entirety of the asset.
Owning assets under JTWROS avoids probate but does not allow ownership to be transferred to a deceased individual’s heirs unless those heirs are the co-owner(s). In other words, the share of the co-owner who dies does not pass through an estate and automatically becomes the property of the remaining co-owner(s).
Even though the FAA maintains the national aircraft registry in Oklahoma City, aircraft ownership is governed by individual state law. Most states allow for personal property to be owned as JTWROS and require that the intent to create joint ownership be stated in writing next to the names of the co-owners in the transfer document (such as a bill of sale).
But to register an aircraft with the FAA as JTWROS, there are some additional considerations. The FAA requires that two or more co-owners must take identical interests simultaneously and by the same instrument. The submitted evidence of ownership (e.g., bill of sale) must include the words “joint tenants” or the initials “JT,” “JT/WROS,” or “WROS.”
To remove a co-owner who has died from the title, the surviving co-owner in a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship may submit an affidavit to the FAA registry stating that the aircraft was held in JTWROS, the names of the co-owners, the name of the deceased owner, and a statement that under the laws of the applicable state, the applicant is the owner of the aircraft.
Jeremy T. Browner is an in-house attorney with AOPA’s Legal Services Plan. He is a 1,600-hour commercial airplane and gilder pilot, CFI, CFII, and advanced ground instructor.