SEVERING JOINT TENANCIES
If you or your spouse/partner own property in joint names, it will usually be held as Joint Tenants, in which case the right of survivorship will apply. The type of ownership will affect what you can do with the property if your relationship with a joint owner breaks down, or if one owner dies.
If you are a Joint Tenant, this means that on the death of one tenant, his or her share automatically passes to the surviving tenant.
If you do not wish this to happen, then the Joint Tenancy must be severed (stopped) to create a Tenancy in Common. This is a fairly simple process and, once done, the right of survivorship no longer applies. This means that upon the death of one tenant, his or her share does not automatically pass to the surviving tenant, but will pass on according to his or her valid Will or the Rules of Intestacy in the event that there being no valid Will.
As Joint Tenants (sometimes called ‘Beneficial Joint Tenants’):
you have equal rights to the whole property
the property automatically goes to the other owners if you die
you cannot pass on your ownership of the property in your Will
Tenants in Common
As Tenants in Common:
you can own different shares of the property
the property doesn’t automatically go to the other owners if you die
you can pass on your share of the property in your Will to whoever you wish
How can I change my type of ownership?
You have two options:
You can change from Joint Tenants to Tenants in Common – usually in circumstances where there are divorce proceedings or a separation or to safeguard your share in the property should you die in being used for care home fees for example should your spouse require that care and you would rather leave your share of the house to another like your children for example.
Change from Tenants in Common to Joint Tenants – usually in the opposite scenario where you are now married and want equal rights for each of you to the property.
Changing from Joint Tenants to Tenants in Common
This is known as ‘Severing the Joint Tenancy’. It requires service of a written notice of change – the ‘severance’. It can be done without the other owner’s cooperation or agreement. It is recorded at the Land Registry, and the other owner will know it has been done but only ‘after the event’ so to speak.
It can also be done by agreement of the owners, and a slightly different procedure is followed, but the result is the same.
Changing from Tenants in Common to Joint Tenants
You need the agreement of the owners for this to happen. It will require a Trust Deed to be prepared usually by a qualified solicitor or conveyancer and setting out that the new terms of ownership are for all the joint owners to own the property as beneficial Joint Tenants.