When it comes to estate planning it’s very important that you know how you own your property. Is your property owned by you or your partner solely? If you own the property together do you know if you own it as ‘joint tenants’ or ‘tenants in common’, and what implications this will have for your estate planning?
Property may be held in a person’s sole name or jointly with others. If property is held in your sole name you may need to consider what would happen to that property when you pass away and how you should protect your partner. You may want to ensure that they can continue to live in the property after your death, but without gifting the property to them.
If you own the property jointly there are two different types of joint ownership that you should be aware of. The first is ‘joint tenants’. When property is held as joint tenants each person owns 100% of the property. Neither owner has a share of the property that they may gift by their will. On the death of an owner the property passes automatically to the surviving owner, this concept is known as ‘survivorship’.
It is possible to change how you hold the property to avoid it passing by survivorship. To do this you should discuss severing your joint tenancy so that you hold as ‘tenants in common’.
Where property is held as tenants in common each owner has a defined share in the property. For most couples this will mean that each has a 50% share in the property, but the shares can be unequal if you agree to hold it this way. Holding as tenants in common will mean that you may gift your share of the property to other people by your will, or into trust on your death.
The process of changing from joint tenants to tenants in common is relatively straight forward and involves completing a form for the Land Registry if your property is registered. For advice on how to do this or what you should do if your property is unregistered your local Society Member will be happy to help.