What does it mean when my ex has 'severed the joint tenancy'?

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To answer this question, you firstly need to understand the difference between holding a property as joint tenants versus holding a property as tenants in common.

1. Joint Tenants: this means if Owner A dies, their share of the house automatically passes to Owner B, and vice versa. It also means there is a very strong presumption that the parties intend to hold the property on a 50/50 basis, regardless of who will be paying the mortgage and what they each put into the property when it was purchased or since then.

2. Tenants in Common: this means that if Owner A dies, their share of the house will pass either under their Will or under the rules of intestacy if they don’t have a Will. This means that their share of the property might not be inherited by Owner B, who may suddenly find they co-own the property with a third party. If you own a property as Tenant in Common, you may have also entered into a Trust Deed to say that you don’t own it in equal shares, and may instead have agreed to hold it so that one of you has a greater financial interest in the property to reflect the fact that owner contributed more to the cost of the property.

If you own the property as joint tenants, and you then separate, you or your ex might decide to make sure your share of the property passes to another family member if you die, rather than passing to your ex. This is called 'severing the joint tenancy'. To do this, the person seeking to sever must serve the other owner with notice that they want to hold the property as tenants in common and then apply to the Land Registry for them to amend the title deeds to show that the property is now held as tenants in common.

It doesn’t mean you stop owning the property jointly, or that your respective financial interests have been changed or reduced in any way.

It also doesn’t mean that you or your ex can secure debts against the property without each other’s consent.

Once the severance has taken place, you should make or change your Will to ensure your share of the property passes to your preferred beneficiary.

It’s always advisable to get legal advice from a qualified Family Lawyer if you are going through a relationship breakdown. Our Family Law team are experts in dealing with separations swiftly and amicably, so you call us today on 01245 264494 to book an appointment and find out where you stand.

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