Q: My aunt has asked me to be the main executor of her Will. Among other assets, she owns two rental properties that were purchased outright and left to her by her late husband many years ago and which have been managed and let by an agent since his death. I have suggested to her that they may not be registered and this could cause a problem when they are sold but she insists not. I don’t think she understands the implications. Could you please outline them so that I can show her?
A: There are a surprising number of properties that were purchased years ago and have escaped registration due to not having been sold or re-mortgaged since. When compulsory registration was first introduced it was rolled out across the country in stages at the time the property changed hands. The last order was made in 1990, so now virtually all transactions in land result in compulsory registration.
One difference however was land changing ownership after death, where it was gifted rather than sold. Compulsory registration for gifted land and property did not come into force until April 1998. Similarly it became compulsory to register land when a mortgage is created on it in 1998.
If property is not registered and the owner dies or wants to sell and cannot locate the original hard copy paper deeds that may have been left in a bank or building society or with some long lost former family solicitor, then it can create a lengthy and expensive problem for those left to sort out their estate. It therefore makes sound sense for your aunt to find the deeds and get them registered whilst she is still alive and has capacity, as one day this will be a requirement anyway. Her solicitor can do this for her.