When you’re drafting a Will it’s important to make sure that your assets will pass to the people you want to have them after you’re gone. If you own a property and this is part of the Estate that you want to leave behind, then the way that you own that property will have an impact on what happens to it.
Joint Tenants and Tenants in Common
There are two main ways to own property in England – as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common. A property that is owed as Joint Tenants will not pass under the terms of a Will, no matter what that Will says. Instead, it will pass from the deceased Joint Tenant to the surviving Joint Tenant, regardless of current circumstances.
A property that is owned as Tenants in Common does come under the remit of your Will. With this type of property ownership your entitlement is to a share of the property. That share passes to your beneficiaries after your death.
How do you know which type of ownership you have?
If your property is registered at the Land Registry then you will be able to access the records that may show how the property is owned. If your property isn’t registered at the Land Registry then the information can be found in the title deeds to the property (which you may have been given when you purchased or they may be held by a lender or Solicitor). If in doubt seek expert advice.
Is it possible to switch from Joint Tenant to Tenants in Common?
Yes, you can change the way that you own a property at any time. If you want to switch from being a Joint Tenant to a Tenant in Common so that your share of a property can pass to your descendents then that’s fairly simple to do. You will need to give notice to your joint owners to sever the Joint Tenancy and then make an entry on the Title at the Land Registry. Many people find it easier to be guided through the process by a solicitor, especially if there is disagreement.
Why go to the trouble of changing your property ownership?
It may be that you and the other Joint Tenant have been in a relationship that has now come to an end. In that case it may be more appropriate to hold the property as Tenants in Common. You may own a property with a friend or relative, but your life circumstances may recently have changed – for example, having children. If you now have people you would like to inherit the property, other than the Joint Tenant, the switch is worth it. Finally, if you are updating your Will and have realised that your share of the property won’t pass on as you had hoped then this is a good time to correct the arrangements.
It is also possible to switch from owning property as Tenants in Common to owning as Joint Tenants, though this is less common.
To speak to a Solicitor in Skipton call 01756 799 000.