When a loved one dies, the last thing on your mind will be sorting out property ownership, but as time passes, you may want to deal with the legal ownership of the family home or other property.
If you need to address property ownership, our specialist probate and conveyancing teams at Solomons Solicitors can help answer your probate and property law questions. We can assist with the transfer of ownership of property or in the probate sale conveyancing process.
Contact our team today to find out how we can help you.
Property ownership and death
If you are the executor of a Will or the administrator of an estate where the deceased died without leaving a valid Will (intestacy), then you will need to deal with all the deceased’s estate and assets, including their property.
One of the first things to check is whether a property was owned in the sole name of the deceased or if it was owned in joint names. For example, the family home is often owned jointly by a husband or wife, or a house purchased as a buy-to-let may be owned jointly with a sibling.
Checking ownership is important because how the property was owned will affect whether the property passes under the Will or intestacy rules or if it passes directly to the surviving legal owner.
A probate solicitor can check the legal ownership of property for you by making inquiries and searches with the land registry.
The Will and sole property ownership
In most Wills, a deceased will not leave a house to a beneficiary. Instead, the deceased may give legacies to named beneficiaries and then leave their residuary estate to named beneficiaries. The executors may need to sell all the assets to enable them to distribute the entire estate to the beneficiaries, including a probate sale of a property.
In some situations, a widow or widower may want to stay in the family home owned in the sole name of the deceased. This may be possible if they were left a legacy that amounted to more than the value of the house or if they can raise the cash to buy the house. A probate solicitor and property lawyer will work together to either get the property sold or transferred to the widow/er.
Joint property ownership and death
If the deceased jointly owned property, a probate lawyer will need to check if the property was owned by the co-owner/s as joint tenants or as tenants in common.
If a property was owned as joint tenants, the surviving property owner/s will automatically own the house under what is referred to as rights of survivorship. This is the case, whatever the contents of the deceased’s Will. A property solicitor will need to sort out the legal paperwork so the title to the property is registered in the sole name of the surviving owner/s. This is important in case the owner/s wants to sell, mortgage the property or take out equity release at a later date. Failure to sort out property ownership could delay the sale, mortgage, or equity release process.
If a property was owned jointly by the deceased as tenants in common, then the deceased’s share in the property will pass by their Will. If the deceased did not make a Will, then their share in the property will pass in accordance with intestacy rules.
The complications of probate and property ownership
Property ownership and death can result in legal complications. For example:
- The deceased may leave a spouse a life interest in their property – a Will may say that the surviving husband or wife has a right to live in the family home until they pass away or they decide they no longer want to live there. For example, because they need long-term residential care. If a Will includes a life interest in the property, the Will should be professionally drawn up by a Will solicitor to ensure that all points are considered, such as who is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the property
- A beneficiary may unexpectedly end up owning a house because of rights of survivorship because, during the deceased’s life, the deceased did not sever the joint tenancy to convert the ownership of the property to tenants in common. If the joint tenancy had been severed, the deceased could have left their share in the property through their Will
- Tax and other complexities can arise where a deceased has been placed on the title deeds to a property. For example, where the deceased jointly owns a property with his or her parents or with the deceased’s adult child and the jointly owned property was not the deceased’s principal private residence
If you own property, you should have a Will prepared for you by specialist Will solicitors. If you are an executor or an administrator of an estate involving property, you should take expert legal advice from probate and conveyancing solicitors.
Speak to our Bournemouth-based Will Solicitors today
Solomons Solicitors can help you with all your estate planning, property, Will, and probate needs.