Joint tenants

Cohabiting and intestacy

Cohabiting and intestacy

Recently, changes to intestacy laws meant that cohabiting couples can now claim more property from the estate of their deceased partner, if no will has been prepared which indicates to the contrary.  This doesn't mean however, that unmarried partners have the same claim to each other's estates as they would as a married couple.

There are now around three million unmarried couples living together in the UK.  Many are under the impression that there is a law which states that after living together for a number of years, that they are automatically classed as "common law spouses" and are therefore granted the same rights as married couples.  In actual fact, whilst partners live together without marrying, then they have almost no rights at all, when it comes to probate and inheritance.

When it comes to a home, one of the best ways to protect each other's interest in the property is to draw up a property purchase contract either as joint tenants, or tenants in common.  As joint tenants, the property is equally owned by both so if one person dies, the surviving partner will automatically inherit the whole property.  As tenants in common, the partners own specific shares in the home, which then means that they should both prepare wills, indicating that on their death, the surviving partner should inherit their share.

Joint tenants and Wills

Many adult children do not realise that, should their parent die, they will not automatically receive a percentage of their property.
Where a property is held by “joint tenants” rather than “tenants in common”, particularly when a divorce has occurred and a parent is living with someone else rather than remarrying, English law states that their portion of the property will automatically be transferred to the surviving tenant, regardless of what is written in their Will, known as “survivorship”.
This is just one of the reasons why a Will should be prepared by a professional, rather than using a DIY Will writing package. The Will writer will ensure that the property is held by tenants in common rather than joint tenants, so that should the person require the Will to dictate that their child will benefit rather than the other tenant, this can then take place.
If the property is currently held as joint tenants, this can be formally severed and a new agreement put into place under this amended status.

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