If you purchase your property with your partner there are two ways you can own the property. It is important that you know and understand the differences, as the type of ownership affects what you can do with the property if your relationship with the joint owner breaks down or if one owner dies.
If you own as Joint Tenants you share equal ownership of the property and have the equal undivided right to keep or dispose of the property. In effect you own as one owner and on the death of one of the owners the property automatically falls to the surviving owner. This is known as the “right of survivorship”, and the crucial point to note is that you cannot pass on your share of the property in your will.
If you have separated from your partner, but are yet to agree the financial settlement you may not be happy with the prospect that if you were to pass away before settlement was finalised then your share of the property would automatically pass to your ex-partner. If this is the case you can easily sever the Joint Tenancy to own as Tenants in Common. This is an easy process and you do not require the consent of the other owner.
Tenants in Common
As Tenants in Common you can express what shares you each own in the property, this may be equal or otherwise. Any deviation away from equal shares can be expressed in a document known as a “declaration of trust”.
As this type of ownership means you own in separate shares, you are able to leave your specific share in your will, and your share therefore does not have to pass to the surviving owner.
If you own as Tenants in Common it is very important that you have a valid will in place.
How to check how you own your property
It is easy to check how you own your own property, by obtaining the “Official Copies of the Register” which you can obtain from the Land Registry. If you own as Tenants in Common there will be a restriction on the title documents which will read as follows: “No disposition by a sole proprietor of the registered estate ( except a trust corporation) under which capital money arises is to be registered unless authorised by an order of the Registrar or the Court”.
There are pros and cons as to which type of ownership you choose, however it is very important that you are aware of how you own the property so you can make informed choices especially around the time of separation.