Severing a Joint Tenancy

What happens to your joint property if your relationship breaks down or runs into difficulties?

There are two ways in which you may jointly own property with your spouse or partner. You might own it as ‘beneficial joint tenants’ or as ‘tenants in common’. When you bought your property it is likely that you bought it as ‘beneficial joint tenants’. The effect of owning a property as ‘beneficial joint tenants’ is that on the death of either of the joint owners, the surviving spouse or partner becomes the sole legal owner of the whole property irrespective of any provisions made in the deceased person’s Will.

The effect of owning a property as ‘tenants in common’ is that each joint owner of the property has a separate share in it so that on the death of either of  the joint owners that deceased person’s share will go to the person named in the deceased’s Will.

When there are difficulties in a relationship which may or may not lead to a separation (and ultimately a divorce or dissolution) consideration should be given to severing the joint tenancy. A severance would result in a tenancy in common being created which will ensure that should either of the joint owners die; the surviving one will not automatically become the sole owner of the whole of the property. As a result of having severed the joint tenancy, the deceased joint owner would have acquired a specific share in the property and provided the deceased made a Will at the time of severing the joint tenancy, the deceased’s share would go to the person named in the Will. If no Will had been made then the share would go to the persons entitled under the rules of intestacy.

You should always take legal advice if you are contemplating severing a joint tenancy. The experienced team in the Family department at Leadenhall Law Group can advise you further and carry out this legal procedure for you.

It is important for the reasons above that a Will is made at the same time the joint tenancy is severed. Leadenhall Law Group has an established Probate and Wills department to advise you as to the legal formalities which need to be followed to ensure your Will is valid.


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