Ownership of land by two or more people as joint tenants means that together they own the property; they do not each have specific shares in it.
One effect of this is that on the death of one of the joint tenants, their interest in the land passes to the other joint tenant or tenants.
Most married couples and many cohabitees own properties as joint tenants (as this is the default status) and therefore should one die, the property will automatically be owned by the survivor. This will apply even if the deceased person has made a Will leaving their interest in the property to somebody other than the other joint owner. For example, a husband might, under the terms of his Will, leave all his assets (including his home) to someone other than his wife. If that house, however is held with his wife by way of joint tenancy then in the event of his death the house will automatically pass to his wife despite the terms of his Will as on his death he will have no "interest" in the property to pass under his will as his "interest" would have automatically passed to his wife.
It is possible to “sever” the joint tenancy of the property, and this is a step that is often taken when relationships break down. The effect of the severance is that it is possible to leave one’s interest in jointly owned property by Will. The disadvantage that may arise with severing the joint tenancy is that if your co-owner dies first, their share will pass to the person to whom they have left their interest by Will. It is especially important upon severing the joint tenancy to make a Will and we will be happy to help you with this.
The amount of each party’s share, in jointly held property is usually 50% although not always. One party may acquire a greater interest by contributing more to the purchase price, by carrying out major works at the property, or even by paying bills or the mortgage. The value of each party’s interest can sometimes be a complex matter and we would be happy to advise you about this.
If you are unmarried and own a property with a partner, and if you wish to ensure that each of your interests in the property are clearly agreed, then you should consider making a Cohabitation Agreement.
Contact our specialist Family Law Team of solicitors based at our Milton Keynes office by calling 01908 304560 or complete our Contact Form and we'll get back to you.