Q: I have just purchased a property jointly with my partner. Could you please explain the difference between purchasing the property as “Joint Tenants” as opposed to “Tenants in Common”.
A: When you buy an asset with another person, the asset is either bought as “Joint Tenants” or “Tenants in Common”. At the time you signed the contract to buy the property with your partner, the solicitor should have explained the difference between the two types of ownership. As this has consequences in terms of who receives what on your death.
As “Joint Tenants”, ownership is held equally. On the death of one of the owners, the property title will automatically pass to the surviving owner without the asset forming part of the deceased’s estate.
If the asset is purchased as “Tenants in Common”, each owner declares a percentage of ownership of the asset. Unlike Joint tenants, you can hold unequal interests. On the death of one of the owners, the deceased owner’s interest in the asset forms part of their estate and is dealt with in accordance with the terms of the will.
If you purchased the asset with your partner as joint tenants, when one of you dies, the asset will revert to the surviving partner. If this is not what you intended then you can change from “Joint Tenants” or “Tenants in Common”. Interestingly the other joint tenant generally has no ability to prevent you doing so. Importantly you must make the title change when you are alive as this change cannot be made by your will after you die.