Many married couples will co-own their property, having signed a legally binding contract known as a joint tenancy. In the event of divorce or separation, you may wish to consider severing any joint tenancy and converting it into a tenancy in common in equal shares. This would enable you to leave your share by Will and prevent it from passing automatically to your spouse.
There are two different ways of owning property jointly, either as 'joint tenants' or 'tenants in common'.
With a 'joint tenancy' you both own the whole of your property jointly and there are no distinct shares. If one of you dies, the survivor automatically becomes the sole owner and it is transferred without the need for a Will setting this out. If you decide to sell your property at any stage you will each be entitled to call for a separate half of the net sale proceeds to be paid to you (unless agreed otherwise).
With a 'tenancy in common' you each have a separate share in your property (this is generally 50% but can be held for example, 70/30). The ownership of the share will not pass to the other owner automatically on death and it is important that you have a Will to reflect who receives your share in the event of your death.
A tenancy in common is most appropriate where owners want to hold the property in proportion to the contribution which each has paid to the purchase price. On a sale, each of you would be entitled to your agreed share. In the event that the agreed shares are not equal then it is recommended that a Trust deed is in place to clearly set out your shares.
If you elect to hold the property as tenants in common, you will need to ensure you have a Will dealing with your share in the property.
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