Owning Property

When you own land and property, your name will be on the deeds; either a Conveyance or an entry on the register at H M Land Registry. If you buy a property with someone else, both of your names will appear on the deeds and you can hold the property together in one of two ways: Joint Tenants and Tenants in Common.

Joint Tenants

If you hold property as joint tenants, this means that the whole property is held by you both together. As a result, if either of you die, the property passes to the survivor automatically, regardless of the terms of any Will.

Tenants in Common

Tenants-in-common hold property in separate shares (a little like shareholders in a company). The shares can be equal or in different proportions, for example 80% to 20%. When a tenant in common dies, his or her Will will control where his or her share is to end up and it will not automatically pass to the surviving owner.

It may be important to look at this way of holding property if contributions to the purchase price are unequal or if one of you has anyone in particular (such as your children from another relationship) to whom you want to leave your share.

Other examples of when you may wish to hold a property as tenants in common would be if you wish to use your will to save inheritance tax or care fees.

If you buy a property as tenants in common, you should both make Wills at the same time so that you can direct where you each want your respective share of the property to end up and to ensure that the one of you who survives can stay on in the house after the death of the first co-owner.

Severance of a Joint Tenancy

If you hold a property as joint tenants it is a simple process to change this to tenants in common if you wish to do so. Either one of you can sever the joint tenancy by giving a simple written notice to the other. The property is then held by both of you as tenants in common and each of your separate shares can then be left by Will.

At Onions & Davies, we have many years’ experience of advising people as to the best way in which they should hold their property. We will advise you whenever you are buying a property through us and also in other circumstances such as when you are making a Will or getting divorced.

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This information refers to the law of England & Wales only, which from time to time changes. In particular, tax information changes annually. It is not a substitute for professional advice, which is up to date and specific to your needs. This information is a summary of the provisions relating to equity release and cannot cover every aspect of their operation. It represents our understanding of current legislation in England and Wales but should not be relied upon as an authoritative statement of law nor as constituting advice. We would advise that legal advice be sought in every circumstance.