Q&A Can Joint Tenants leave their half of a house to someone else in their Wills?

Q:      Please can you settle an argument about passing on property? My (second) wife and I own our house as Joint Tenants, but we each want to leave our half of the house to our respective sons rather than to each other. However, my pal down at the pub says this is not possible without us severing our joint tenancy. Please can you confirm whether this is correct, and if so how we sever the tenancy, and what we have to do instead?

A:       It is not uncommon for couples to own a house as Joint Tenants, but what that means is that each spouse or partner owns an equal share giving them 50/50 rights to the whole property. So, in the event that one partner or spouse dies, their half of the property automatically passes to the surviving spouse or partner, the legal implication being that neither party can pass on their half of the property to anyone else under their Will.

So, your pal at the pub is quite right when he says that in order to leave your half of the property to someone other than your wife who is joint tenant, you would have to sever the joint tenancy. The process of severing a joint tenancy needs to be handled with care and consideration as it also involves converting your joint ownership to holding the property as Tenants in Common. It would therefore be advisable to seek help from a solicitor who can prepare the necessary paperwork and ensure the change is contractually watertight.

The conversion process requires serving of a Notice of Severance on your co-owner, which must be lodged with the Land Registry. Once this has taken place you are free to prepare a Will leaving your half of the property to whoever you wish.

This question has been answered by Lisa Jones, a Senior Solicitor with GHP Legal.  If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry or for an appointment visit www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194