Where two or more persons are to be beneficial owners of a property it is necessary to choose one of two types of joint ownership. These are:
Under this arrangement, both (or all) the parties will own the whole property (in undefined shares) on the basis that if one of them dies the whole property will automatically belong to the survivor or survivors.
This method is usually preferred by couples (married or otherwise) or other joint owners who wish to provide security for their partners and do not need to reserve their own share in the value of the property for the benefit of someone else.
"Tenancy in Common"
By contrast with the above, under this method each party owns a separate beneficial interest in the value of the property (usually in equal shares but they can be unequal, if appropriate) which will still belong to them in the event of their death. This means they can arrange for their interest in the property to pass to someone else, for which purpose it is essential to make a WILL to state expressly what is intended.
This is more suitable for those purchasing property for business purposes or investment, or acquiring property together as a joint venture to share the cost, and for couples where (for instance) one party has children by a prior relationship and wishes to preserve his or her share in the value of the property to pass on to those children in the event of his or her death. It can also be used as part of Inheritance Tax saving measures.
If in doubt as to which method is appropriate for you, contact us for Free Advice.
Instructions required when purchasing property
If you are purchasing a property jointly you will need to decide which of the above methods of ownership you prefer before completing the purchase. As joint tenancy is more usual, we will assume you wish to be joint tenants unless you instruct us to the contrary. If you decide to be tenants in common, we would need your instructions as to whether the property is to be held in equal shares or in different proportions. As equal shares are more usual, we would assume this is what you require unless you instruct us otherwise.
If a property is currently held on joint tenancy, and it is desired to convert this into a tenancy in common, this can be done by a formal Notice of Severance, which is usually signed by both (or all) parties but it is sufficient if it is signed by one party and given to the other(s).
In any event, we will also need your instructions regarding the preparation of Wills, to provide what is to be done with your share of the value of the property on your death.
The above guidance may not be appropriate in cases where property is being acquired by (or transferred to) joint owners to be held by them as trustees for someone else (rather than beneficial owners). In such cases it is necessary to consider the purposes of the trust and the legal documentation will be drafted accordingly.