The right of survivorship means that when the first owner dies, their interest in the property is automatically absorbed so that the surviving owner now owns the whole property, see graphic. This is due to the operation of law and is independent of a will.
When the survivor dies, the property then passes according to their will, or if no will left, according to the intestacy rules. For people co-owning property as joint tenants, it is therefore important to review their situations and wills on a regular basis to ensure outcomes on death are what is wanted.
Joint tenancy and tenancy in common give different outcomes when an owner dies
Joint tenancy and tenancy in common are ways of owning property with others. Each works differently when an owner dies, see graphic below. This impacts who will inherit the deceased owner’s share. These graphics seek to highlight how each tenancy works.
In a joint tenancy, when one owner dies, the surviving one automatically owns the whole property. This happens independently of any will (and probate) because of the right of survivorship attaching to this tenancy type.
Many people own property with another person in a co-ownership arrangement. Spouses or partners typically own their residence together in joint names, family members; or friends may own a property together for investment.
An important issue to consider upfront when buying property are the consequences of when a co-owner dies. How the property is owned between people, that is, its tenancy, can give very different outcomes on death. Ideally these should be considered at the time of purchase.
Questions to ask include who can take a co-owner’s interest when they die? Would this be what they want to have happen? If not, can they state their intention in their will? Or is the property owned in a way that on death the interest automatically passes to the survivor/s outside of a will, as in joint tenancy? This article looks at tenancy issues. More →