Tenants in Common - What Happens to a Property When You Die?

28 February 2020

If you own your home jointly as Tenants in Common, then you and the other owner will each own a defined share. What happens to your share when you die will depend on whether you have made a Will, and what this says if so.

How Property Is Owned

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.

In England & Wales, if you own a property in your sole name then what happens to this when you die is relatively straightforward. If you have made a Will, the property would be dealt with in accordance with the terms of the Will. If you die without a Will, inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy would 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 ways you could own this; either as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common. How you jointly own the property will determine what happens to your share when you die.

When purchasing 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 of each.

Joint Tenants and Right of Survivorship

Owning a property with someone else as Joint Tenants means that you own 100% of the property jointly with the other owner, with neither of you having a defined share. When you die, the property automatically passes to the surviving joint tenant under the Right of Survivorship.

A property owned as Joint Tenants cannot be passed under the terms of your Will. Instead, the Right of Survivorship will apply regardless of what your Will states.

How To Pass On a Jointly Owned Property In Your Will

If you own property as Joint Tenants and you want to to leave your share of the property to someone other than the joint owner under the terms of your Will, you must change the property ownership to Tenants in Common instead. This means that you will each own a specific share of the property, which is commonly 50% (although this can vary depending each person's financial contribution). You can then leave your share of the property to whomever you choose in your Will.

If you already own a property jointly as Tenants in Common and you have not yet made a Will, then the Rules of Intestacy will determine what happens to your share when you die. The Rules of Intestacy place your relatives in order of priority and they do not recognise certain family members such as cohabiting partners or step-children.

If you own or are purchasing a property as Tenants in Common then the only way to ensure your share is passed on in line with your wishes is to make a Will.

Checking How Your Home is Owned

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.

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