A property is normally the most valuable asset that someone owns, so it's important to understand what actually happens to it once you've died.
There are a number of things to consider. Firstly, it depends on how the property is owned. For example it could be owned in someone's sole name or owned jointly between two or more people.
In England & Wales, if you own a property in your sole name then the position is relatively straightforward, in that after your death the property would be dealt with in accordance with the terms of your Will. If you die without a Will the government will decide who gets what. If you have no living family members your property and all your possessions will go to the Crown.
If you own a property jointly with someone else then it's important to know that there are two different ways you could be owning it. Depending upon how you own the property jointly will dictate what happens in the event of your death.
There are two ways to legally own property jointly with someone else. One way is called Joint Tenants and the other is Tenants in Common. What happens to the ownership of the property, after your death, depends on which way you own it.
Owning a property with someone else as Joint Tenants means that you own 100% of the property jointly with your co-owners. If you, or one of your co-owners, die then the property automatically continues to be owned by the surviving co-owners. This is important when it comes to making a Will because owning a property as Joint Tenants means that the property does not form part of your estate, and any perceived share that you own cannot be left under your Will. This is also the case even if you specifically say in your Will that you want your property to go to a particular person.
If you do own property with someone else then, in order to leave a share of the property under a Will, you must own it together as Tenants in Common. This means that you own a specific share of the property, rather than co-owning the whole property as you would as Joint Tenants. It also means that you can leave your share of the property to whomever you choose in your Will and it doesn't have to go to the co-owners.
When buying a property with someone else, you should be given the option by your Conveyancing Lawyer as to whether you want to own the property as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common. You should consider this choice carefully and fully understand the implications.
If you already own a property with someone else, and you're unsure whether it's held as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common, then this can be checked on your Title Deeds. If the legal title to your property is registered with the Land Registry then you can obtain a copy of the Title from them.
When making your Will it's important to know how you own your property. We offer this check as part of our Will Writing service at no additional cost.
For initial advice about making a Will call our Will Writers on 01618558360 or contact us online and we will call you.