Buying a home with your partner is usually an exciting move, especially if it’s your first property. But it’s important not to get so carried away that you forget about the important legal aspects of owning a property.
Of course you want to focus on the fun part and there’s nothing wrong with that. And of course you don’t want to think about what might happen when one of you dies, or if you split up, or one of you needs to go into a care home. Again, that’s perfectly natural.
But – and it’s an important but – these things do happen and are difficult enough to deal with without having complications over your property ownership thrown into the emotional mix.
Joint Tenants and Tenants in Common
When you buy a home with someone, you will either be Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common. There are important differences between the two, so it’s essential you understand these to make sure you have the set-up that’s right for you and your personal circumstances.
If you have Joint Tenancy, you will both have equal rights to the entire property. This means that when one of you dies, the property will automatically pass on to the other person. Crucially, this means that you can’t choose anybody other than your partner to leave the property to in your will.
If you are Tenants in Common, however, you will each own a share of the property and you can choose who to leave your share to in your will. The share may be an equal 50:50 split or any other division.
What are the benefits of each?
Having a Joint Tenancy gives you peace of mind that your home will be yours for as long as you live. It does, however, mean that you can’t choose who to leave your share of the property to when you die. If you have children from a previous relationship – or your partner does – then you might each want your respective children to inherit your share of the property.
If this is the case then you might want to own your property as Tenants in Common. The downside to this is that if your partner dies before you and has left their share to their children, you could be faced with selling your home if they want their share of the inheritance quickly.
Considering care home fees
Again, not something people want to think about when they buy a house, but a little consideration now could make a world of difference in later life. You may at some point need to use the equity in your home to fund care home fees, so it’s important to know how much belongs to you and how much to your partner – protecting you both should the issue of care home fees arise.
Switching to Tenants in Common
If you think you would be better served as Tenants in Common then you can switch from a Joint Tenancy fairly easily, using what’s known as a Severance of Joint Tenancy. All you need to do here is give the other owner written notice, and you don’t need their agreement.
However, as with most aspects of law it’s always best to get legal advice. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of property ownership, and a specialist can take you through these to establish the best way forward for you, your partner and your family.
The Lester Aldridge family team deal with these and other issues on a regular basis and are frequently instructed by clients regarding divorce proceedings.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of separation, arrangements for your children or wish to protect your assets prior to getting married, contact the family team on 01202 786161 or email [email protected]