You would certainly have more control over your assets if you owned them in your name only, rather than jointly.
Here are a couple of unpleasant things that could happen with a Joint tenancy with right of survivorship (JTWROS) -- First, your co-owner has the legal right to petition a court for a judicial partition of the assets. A judicial partition, if granted, would force you to distribute your co-owner's share to them, or if the asset cannot be divided, you could be forced to sell it and distribute your co-owner's share of the proceeds to him or her. But, you might say, the people on these accounts with me are my kids (or best friends, or whatever). They'd never do something like that to me! Even if your co-owners never intentionally did anything to harm you, one of them could, say, be sued by someone they accidentally injured in an auto accident. If your co-owner lost the lawsuit, your co-owner's share of your asset could be taken by the judgement creditor.
From a tax viewpoint, when you set up the joint accounts, you gave away a portion of your assets to the person you put on the account with you. If the value of the portion you gave away was more than the exempt
amount (currently $11,000 per year per donee) then you should have filed a gift tax return
(although you would not have owed any gift tax
, based on the total value of your accounts).
Unlike some lawyers, I'm all in favor of do-it-yourself law
in areas where the law is not too complex. But estate and gift tax law (and tax law in general) are so complex, and there are so many chances of suffering horrible consequences for making a mistake -- I would strongly advise you to consult a lawyer experienced in estate planning
. I'm not licensed to practice law in Florida, but I know lawyers in FL and could refer you to someone. Or you could look in Martindale Hubbell or even the Yellow Pages and do some calling around until you find someone you like who seems to know their stuff.