What will happen to our home if one of us dies?

You may be unaware that the way you own your home with your partner or spouse will affect how it is passed on when you die. There are two main types of joint home ownership in the UK:

  1. Joint tenancy
  2. Tenancy in common

Both of these ownership structures have their own advantages, depending on your circumstances.

Joint tenancy
When you own your property as joint tenants, both of you own the entire property. This means that if one of you were to die, the property would automatically pass to the surviving partner, irrespective of the terms of their Will or intestacy rules (i.e., if they die without a valid Will). This is called the ‘right of survivorship’.

This is a common choice when purchasing a property with a spouse or partner, as it is less complex and ensures the surviving owner would definitely be able to keep the house if the other died.

It also ensures that each person has an equal share in the property (regardless of the financial input of each partner) and results in a 50/50 split of the profits if the property were to be sold.

Tenancy in common
The main difference between joint tenants and tenants in common is that each owner can possess an unequal share in the property, and can pass on that share to whomever they like in their Will.

This is a more common choice for friends or family members buying together. So, if each partner is making an unequal financial contribution in a property purchase, they may prefer to own it as tenants in common, in order that the share they own reflect that contribution.

Ownership shares are recorded in a document called a Declaration of Trust (also known as a Deed of Trust) which, although not legally mandatory, sets out the rights each party has to the property and can be vital if a relationship breaks down.

For both types of tenancy, you must all agree if you want to sell the property.

Can we change our current joint ownership structure?
You can switch a joint tenancy to a tenancy in common (and vice versa) if you feel the current type of ownership no longer fits your needs. If, for example, you currently own your home as joint tenants but would like to leave your share of the property to somebody else in your Will, then you will need to sever your joint tenancy.

Joint tenants to tenants in common
Your solicitor will fill in a ‘form SEV’ on your behalf in order to sever the joint tenancy and submit this and any supporting documents to HM Land Registry. Severing a joint tenancy in this way enables you to switch from being joint tenants to tenants in common.

Tenants in common to joint tenants
Your solicitor will help you to update your Declaration of Trust, confirming that you want to become joint tenants. They will also fill out ‘form RX3’ on your behalf, available on the government website, to cancel any restrictions on the title deed of your property. They will then send these documents to HM Land Registry to complete the process.

We can help
Our Residential Property experts have years of experience in advising couples looking to buy about the best joint ownership structure for their circumstances. They can also act on your behalf if you are looking to change the type of tenancy under which you currently jointly own your home.

To find out more about what we can do for you, please contact us on 0344 967 2505 or email mail@woodfines.co.uk.

-Asha Ali

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