A property is likely to be the most expensive purchase you will make in your lifetime. It is therefore essential you have peace of mind that, should anything unfortunate happen to you, you know to whom your share in the property and your other assets would go.
As solicitors, we always advise our clients on buying a property to make sure they have a valid will in place. If you do not, the law, rather than your personal wishes, will dictate who your assets are to go to.
So what does this mean for you?
Individual property owners
If you own your property solely and have a will, the whole of the property (after any mortgages are paid off) would be transferred according to that will on your death. If you do not have a will, the property will be transferred in accordance with the intestacy rules.
The intestacy rules mean that your property (as well as the rest of your assets) would be transferred to your next of kin. The make-up of your family will decide who is your next of kin. If you are married, it will be your spouse. If not, any children will be your next of kin. Where there are no children, it would be your parents, and then after that, other relatives.
It is important to note that if you are not married, your partner will not inherit anything under the intestacy rules. If you have not left a will, you cannot choose to whom your property is left. Therefore if you wish to direct your assets to a particular person it is necessary that your will states this.
When two or more people purchase a property together, there are two options: you can purchase it jointly or you can both have separate shares in the property.
When you purchase a property jointly (as joint tenants), on your death, the whole of the property would transfer to the remaining owner. If you are buying a property with separate shares (tenants in common) however, your share would pass according to your will. Again, the intestacy rules apply if you do not have a will. This could make it difficult for the remaining owner as they may find themselves owning a property with a distant relative of yours.
If you own a property as a joint tenant and do not want your share to pass to the other owner, it is necessary that you see a solicitor to discuss changing the ownership of the property into tenants in common.
Alternatively, if you are a tenant in common or an individual owner and would like your share of the property to go to a particular person, you must make a will to express this.
It is a difficult subject to think about, and is not something that is always at the top of our to do lists. However making a will means that you will have peace of mind that when you do die your assets are left to the right person or people. At Levi Solicitors LLP, our specialist property and wills and probate teams can advise you on your options.