Owning property jointly - Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common?

As Will writers we regularly find ourselves explaining the difference between Joint Tenants and Tenants in Common and how the different type of ownership of property can affect your Will.  

When property is purchased, or inherited by joint owners, you must decide which basis you wish to own the property. Property can be owned as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common.

The type of ownership affects what you can do with the property, if one of the owners dies, or if there is a breakdown of relationship with the other joint owner(s).

Joint Tenants (sometimes called beneficial joint tenants)

As joint tenants there is no separate distinction of shares.

  • The property belongs to each owner jointly
  • The property automatically passes to the survivor(s) on the death of one of the joint owners
  • You will not own a specific share in the property so are unable to leave a share/percentage of the property in your will
  • Any reference made in a will to leave property to anyone other than the other legal owner(s) will be ineffective

Tenants in Common

As Tenants in Common you own a share in the property.

  • The shares may be 50/50 or can be more specific
  • On the event of death of one of the owners their share in the property does not automatically pass to the other joint owner(s) and will instead form part of the deceased ‘s Estate and will be dealt with by their Personal Representatives
  • You can specify in you Will who the share is to pass to

Which option is right for me?

Joint tenants is common amongst married couples where there is not an advantage to defining separate shares in a property and where they would want the property to automatically pass to the surviving spouse.

Tenants in common is often used for couples on second marriages, or who have children from previous relationships, in estate planning and for those people looking to try and protect the property from having to be sold to pay long term care fees. Wills are often done at the same time as property is arranged as tenants in common.

If you own your property as Joint Tenants and wish to change this to Tenants in Common, then this can be done by one of the joint owners serving a notice of severance on the other joint owner(s) and applying to the Land Registry for the notice of severance to be registered.  Here at mosshaselhurst, our team of Will Writers will be happy to assist you in finding out how property is owned and whether the type of ownership suits your current, and future, requirements.