According to recent studies, more than half of the adults living in the United Kingdom have not yet written a will (1). This is problematic for several reasons. First, the lack of a will can cause a great deal of confusion in regards to personal assets, estates, inheritance tax and possible custody of any minors. Not only could this place a great deal of emotional stress upon the recently bereaved, but the fact of the matter is that disputes and legal battles may also come into play. One area which is often overlooked involves the concept of transferring a sole tenancy to what is known as a tenancy in common. Let us look at why this is important and some of the reasons that this concern needs to be addressed sooner as opposed to later.
Many couples are familiar with the term "joint tenancy". This signifies that when one partner dies, the other half automatically becomes the sole owner of the property. As should be expected, this clause is frequently included within standard wills. However, sole tenancy is an entirely different concept. As there is no named legal beneficiary, knowing who will inherit the property (as well as individual associated responsibilities) can be very confusing. In most cases, the property cannot be inherited by anyone other than the single name on the agreement. This is an obvious concern to children, spouses and other family members.
Tenancy in common is defined as a specific number of beneficiaries owning a certain percentage of the property upon the death of the owner (or joint owners). Tenants in common each own 50 per cent of the property (in most cases or unless other tenants are included within the will). The owners of any shares within a property can leave their portion to whomever they prefer within their will.
Another point should be mentioned here. Let us assume for a moment that a husband and a wife are tenants in common. Should the husband die and leave his share of the property to someone other than his wife, the home may have to be sold in order to give this third beneficiary the cash value that was promised within the will. One option here is to have a specific clause known as "giving a life interest" written into the will. This allows the other half to continue to live in the home until his or her death.
Tenancy in common is an excellent way to avoid future disputes upon the death of a property owner. We are pleased to provide an expert that will help you construct your will while addressing such important tenancy issues.