If you are acting as executor on someone's will and they owned property, you'll need to know more about its ownership.
Many people change home ownership from joint tenancy to 'tenants in common' in order to protect their children's future inheritance. But how can you tell if a property is owned by joint tenants or tenants in common?
Check pertinent documents
The first thing to do is to check any historical documents that exist from the date the property was purchased by the deceased. If you can't find the relevant documentation, you could search for information regarding property ownership through the Land Registry. Land Registry searches can be carried out online for a small fee, simply by entering the house address.
If you find that the property is registered as a joint tenancy, this means that both those named own the property title jointly. Therefore, if one of the joint tenants were to die, ownership of the title would automatically pass to the survivor.
As executor on a will, it's important to note that property owned under a joint tenancy cannot be gifted in a will.
In order to create ownership as tenants in common, a Deed of Severance must be created by the joint tenants while they are still alive and forwarded to the Land Registry.
Tenants in common
If the property is owned by tenants in common, this means that both parties own a specified share. For example, one party could own 60% of the house and the other 40%, or they may both own shares of 50% each.
In the event of the death of one party, their share does not automatically pass to the other person. The deceased's share in the property may be gifted to a named beneficiary under the terms of their will. If no will has been left, their share will be passed on according to the Rules of Intestacy.
Tenancy in common will be clearly indicated on the proprietorship register.
If you are the executor on a will where the deceased owns property, you will need to know the terms of tenancy before you are able to expedite the will and distribute the estate among the beneficiaries. For more guidance and information on how to determine property ownership in regards to wills, it's a good idea to consult an experienced family solicitor or specialist in estates planning and probate matters.