SEVERING JOINT TENANCIES
Where one or more person owns the same property, there are 2 ways they can own it: as joint tenants (which means that whichever of them dies last fully owns the property); or as tenants in common (which means that, upon death, each of the owners’ shares forms part of their estate). One main practical difference between holding as joint tenants and as tenants in common relates to who owns the property upon death.
If a joint tenant dies, then the last surviving joint tenant becomes the sole owner of the property, whereas if a tenant in common dies, then his ownership can be passed onto a person of his choosing.
Typically people decide purchase their main residence as joint tenants if they are married couples, civil partners or those cohabiting but unmarried. Joint tenancy comes with a legal surprise known as the right of survivorship. Simply put, this means that whichever joint tenant last, takes up sole legal ownership of the property.
Many couples will be happy with this arrangement, particularly if they are agreed on who they want to leave their assets and estate to. Some, however, will end up wanting to leave their shares of the ownership to a separate people. In such situations, they may wish to change holding the property as joint tenants to holding as tenants in common. This process is known as severing their joint tenancy.
Care should be taken before making this decision, to ensure that you fully understand any risks involved.