Arford Henderson Law

jointly-owned property

What happens to jointly-owned property when someone dies without a Will?

This depends how the ownership of the property is structured at the Land registry.

Married couples normally own property as “beneficial joint tenants“, meaning the property goes entirely to the deceased’s spouse or civil partner.

The same principle applies where this form of ownership is used but the joint owners are not married.

Here, though, inheritance tax may have to be paid if the deceased’s share is worth more than the nil rate band.

The “tenants in common” form of ownership is more common where co-owners aren’t married. This is because it allows different proportions of ownership and also allows individual owners to bequeath their share separately.

But where there isn’t a Will, this poses a risk to the survivor. The part of the property belonging to the deceased will be distributed according to the intestacy rules.

“Chattels” are personal items used by an individual, for example furniture, vehicles, art and other household items. Post 1 October 2014 this excludes items that are held as an investment with no personal use at the date of death (so for example art held as an investment).

They go entirely to the deceased’s spouse or civil partner where there is no will and are not considered part of the estate to be split under the rules of intestacy.

However, where someone is unmarried, these are treated like any other assets and distributed according to the intestacy rules.

To illustrate this point, Jack is in a 20 year relationship with Jill but are unmarried. Jack has two children from his first marriage. Jill has no children but her father is alive.

Jack and Jill buy a house for £1m and register the property as equal tenants in common.

Neither of them have made a Will.

If Jack was to die, his share of the house will go to his two children, including his wine collection.

If Jill was to die, her share of the house would go to her father, including her record collection.

And the moral of this story is…

If there is a lesson to be learned from the above tale, it is this:

  • It is a good investment to obtain sound Estate Planning advice.

Please contact me on [email protected] or 0207 041 6069 to find out how I can best help you protect your family and your assets.

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