Transferring property after death

How to transfer property ownership to a new owner after the homeowner dies.

When a homeowner dies, their property will either need to be sold or transferred. We explain how to transfer property ownership after a homeowner's death and update the title deeds with the name of the new owner.

The process for transferring the property and who is responsible for this depends on how the property was owned. So, the first thing to establish is whether it was owned jointly with another person, or if it was owned in the sole name of the person who died.

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Transferring property owned by a sole owner

If the property is owned in the sole name of the person who died and the property title is registered at the Land Registry, then the transfer process is relatively straight forward.

The person handling the estate (the executor or administrator) will need to transfer the property to the person who is entitled to inherit it (the beneficiary). This will be dictated by the terms of the will if there is one or by inheritance laws, if there isn't.

For the property to be transferred to a beneficiary, the executor or administrator will need to submit a document called an 'Assent' to the Land Registry. The Land Registry will then transfer the property into the name of the new owner.

The grant of probate (or letters of administration) also needs to be sent to the Land Registry, because this tells them who has authority to transfer the property. The general term for this document is a grant of representation.

The same applies if the property is going to be sold. The grant of representation gives legal authority to the relevant person to sign the transfer document that will transfer the property to the buyers.

Transferring property owned by joint owners

The transfer process is slightly more complicated if the deceased owned the property in joint names with someone else. There are two different ways in which property can be jointly owned; as joint tenants or tenants in common.

Joint tenants

If the property is owned jointly as joint tenants, neither person owns a specific or identifiable share of the property. On one owner's death, the surviving joint owner (or owners) will automatically inherit the whole of the property. This will happen regardless of whether the person left their share of the property to someone else in their will.

To transfer the property into the sole name of the surviving joint owner, the death certificate needs to be sent in to the Land Registry, who will update the title. If the deeds to the property are unregistered, it is possible to place a death certificate with the deeds, but it's advisable to register the title with the Land Registry at this point. Once this has been done, the property will then be registered in the name of the surviving joint owner.

Tenants in common

If the property is owned jointly as tenants in common, then each owner will own a specific share. This is often 50% but it can be divided in any proportion. The share of the property owned by the person who died must be dealt with in accordance with their will, or the rules of intestacy if there is no will.

To deal with the transfer of a property owned as tenants in common, the surviving joint owner is the person who has the authority to deal with the transfer. The Land Registry will therefore not need to see the grant of representation to transfer the property.

If the property isn't already registered with the Land Registry, it will need to be registered to be transferred. The application for the registration and the transfer can take place at the same time.

If the property title is unregistered, death of a co-owner does not trigger first registration and the death certificate can just be placed with the deeds. However, if the co-owner wishes to transfer the title to add the beneficiaries then first registration is compulsory.

With our probate complete service, we take full responsibility for getting the grant of probate and dealing with the legal, tax and estate administration matters. We can also help with the transfer of property alongside this service.

We can also cover the costs of a Co-op Funeralcare funeral up front, as long as the estate has sufficient assets to repay these costs later.

If you need help with probate, contact us: