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Joint tenants -v- tenants in common : why does it make a difference?

January 23, 2016

When you purchase a property with somebody, for example, your partner, legally you will either own the property as ‘joint tenants’ or ‘tenants in common’.  When you own the property as joint tenants you both own the whole property.  However, when you own the property as ‘tenants in common’ you will each own a share of the property – usually, but not always, on a 50/50 basis.  The significance of this for the purpose of writing a will is that, whatever your wishes may be regarding how your estate is distributed on the event of your death, if you own the property as joint tenants, your ‘share’ of the property will automatically pass to the other other owner when you die. It is only if you own the property as tenants in common that you are able to specify that your share of the property be left to someone other than the person with whom you jointly own the property.  Increasingly, people are choosing – in order to protect their children’s inheritance – to leave their share of the property they own directly to their children, giving their spouse or partner a life interest in the property (i.e. allowing them to remain living there until their own death or, perhaps, remarriage).  This can ONLY be done if you own the property as tenants in common!  If you are unsure, check the title deeds for your property or ask your solicitor for clarification.

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