Owning a house as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common makes a vital difference to
how your Will can work.
Severance of Tenancy
Many people own a house jointly - but as Joint Tenants, or Tenants in Common? Here
is the difference:-
When one joint owner dies, the other automatically owns all of it - no matter what
it might say in your Will. This is similar to how a Joint bank account normally works
and most married couples tend to own their house in this way.
Tenants in Common
Think of this as you each just owning your share of the property (typically 50/50,
but it can be in any proportion). When one owner dies their share passes according
to their Will (or if no Will, then according to the laws of intestacy)
In your Will you may be able to protect part of your house against being lost to
outside demands, such as inheritance tax, debts, remarriage, long term care fees
etc - but this will only work if you do not own the house as Joint Tenants.
However, you should always be very clear: simply owning your house as Tenants in
Common does NOT protect it against all these problems. The protection is provided
by having a clever Will or by gifting your house into trust during your lifetime;
Tenants in Common just allows that Will to work as intended.
The ownership can be changed to Tenants in Common, by undertaking a Severance of
Tenancy. Your Will writer can help you check the ownership and make the change if
“But with our house only one name is on the Deeds - what should we do?” The most
appropriate course of action might be simply leaving the house in one name and make
suitable Wills - but it will need a more detailed review of situation before you