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 by 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 by 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?
It’s fairly simple to find out whether you own your property as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common. If your property is registered at the Land Registry then you will be able to access the records that 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 should have been given when you purchased).
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 fill in a form to register a ‘form A restriction’ to sever the Joint Tenancy and you may need to provide supporting documents. 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.