“Me and my partner are buying our first home. If we passed away what would happen to our home?”
If you passed without leaving a valid Will then your property, referred to as the ‘estate’, would be shared out according to certain rules, called the rules of intestacy.
This means, without a Will, what you own will be inherited by a spouse or a close family member – often referred to as a person’s “next of kin”. The rules of intestacy lay down a specific order of priority so that if you’re married, either together or separated, your husband/wife will inherit your estate.
If you are not married, then your partner will not inherit under the law of intestacy. You would need a Will and specifically detail that your partner will inherit your estate.
However, when it comes to property, this is a little more complicated.
What happens to my home?
To understand what will happen to your home after death, you must know how your property is owned. There are two type of ownership: joint tenants or tenants in common.
It’s possible to check how a property is owned at the Land Registry, for a small fee, and it’s possible to change how your property is held if you need to.
If you and your partner/spouse own a house as joint tenants, then you both own the entire property together. Neither of you has an identifiable share. If either one of you passes away then the other person will own the entire property, regardless of a Will or the intestacy rules.
If you joint own property with an ex-spouse and have started a new family, your ex-spouse will inherit the property if you pass away, regardless of what you have stated in your Will. As a joint tenant, you can’t give away a share of the property in a Will. If you die, your interest in the property passes automatically to the other owner.
If both owners of the property were to pass away at the same time, the law of property would dictate that the oldest of the two people would technically die first, therefore the whole property would pass into the estate of the younger person. This means that if you own property, and both perished in an accident, your home will treated as being inherited by the youngest co-owner. If that person has a valid Will, the house will be inherited by the beneficiary named in the Will, but if he or she did not have a valid Will it would pass to their next of kin.
Tenants in Common
If the house is held under tenants in common, this means the property is ‘shared’ between both partners, which could be split 50-50 or otherwise. Each person owns a specific share in the house. This will usually be documented in a declaration of trust. On the death of one person, their share in the property will pass in accordance with their Will or follow the intestacy rules. This means if a co-owner passes away, the other owner does not automatically inherit the deceased’s share of the property.
If you own your property in your sole name, and you do not have a valid Will, the law will decide who will inherit it from you following the intestacy rules.
If you are un-married, own a house in your sole name or with another person, it’s important you have a Will and that you check that you own your property in the correct way. A Will is especially important if:
- Are separated from a spouse
- Have children
- You are estranged from immediate family
- Own property, have savings and/or valuables
To discuss your specific situation with me or our wills, trusts and probate team you can call our enquiry team and make an appointment. We offer fixed fees on most of our matters and flexible appointments to suit your needs. If you can’t make it into the office, we offer telephone appointments.
You can email Howells to make an appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit our website or call us:
Sheffield: 0114 249 66 66
Barnsley: 0122 680 51 90
Rotherham: 0170 936 40 00