Joint Ownership

Joint Ownership
Joint Ownership
Full Overview Of Joint Ownership

Joint ownership of property is a common arrangement in the UK, often chosen by couples, business partners, and family members. This method of property ownership can provide various benefits, including ease of transfer upon death and shared financial responsibility. However, it also comes with potential pitfalls and legal considerations. As probate solicitors at DLS, we aim to provide a comprehensive overview of joint ownership, elucidating its types, implications, and the probate process involved.

Types of Joint Ownership

In the UK, there are two primary forms of joint ownership: joint tenancy and tenancy in common. Understanding the differences between these two is crucial for making informed decisions about property ownership.

Joint Tenancy

Joint tenancy is a form of ownership where two or more individuals own the property equally. The defining feature of joint tenancy is the right to survivorship. This means that when one joint tenant dies, their share of the property automatically passes to the surviving joint tenant(s), bypassing the need for probate.

Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in common, on the other hand, allows co-owners to hold different proportions of the property. Unlike joint tenancy, there is no right of survivorship in a tenancy in common arrangement. When a tenant in common dies, their share of the property is distributed according to their will or the rules of intestacy if there is no will.

Creating Joint Ownership

Creating joint ownership is typically straightforward and can be done at the time of property purchase or later through a transfer of equity. When purchasing property, the conveyancer will ask how the buyers wish to hold the property, and this will be reflected in the title deeds.

Changing from Sole Ownership to Joint Ownership

If a sole owner wishes to add another person as a joint owner, this can be done by transferring an interest in the property. This process involves drafting and signing a deed of transfer, which is then registered with HM Land Registry.

Severance of Joint Tenancy

A joint tenancy can be converted into a tenancy in common through a process known as severance. This can be done unilaterally by one joint tenant, typically by serving a notice of severance on the other joint tenant(s) and registering the change with HM Land Registry.

Understanding joint ownership’s legal and financial implications is essential for avoiding disputes and ensuring that the arrangement serves its intended purpose.

Legal Implications

Joint tenancy and tenancy in common come with different legal consequences, particularly in the event of death or a dispute among co-owners. Joint tenancy’s right of survivorship simplifies the transfer of ownership upon death but can complicate matters if co-owners have different estate planning goals. Tenancy in common, while offering flexibility in ownership shares, can lead to complications in probate and potential disputes among heirs.

Financial Implications

Joint ownership affects financial liabilities, including mortgage responsibilities and potential capital gains tax upon the sale of the property. Joint tenants are jointly and severally liable for the mortgage, meaning that if one co-owner defaults, the other(s) must cover the full amount. In a tenancy in common, each owner is responsible for their proportionate share.

Probate and Joint Ownership

The probate process varies significantly depending on whether the property is held as a joint tenancy or a tenancy in common. Understanding these differences is critical for estate planning and administration.

Probate for Joint Tenancy

As previously mentioned, joint tenancy includes the right of survivorship, meaning that the deceased’s share automatically passes to the surviving joint tenant(s). This process bypasses probate, simplifying the transfer of ownership. However, it’s important to note that while probate is avoided, inheritance tax considerations still apply. The value of the deceased’s share is included in their estate for inheritance tax purposes.

Probate for Tenancy in Common

In contrast, when a tenant in common dies, their share of the property forms part of their estate and must go through probate. The executor of the will (or the administrator if there is no will) is responsible for obtaining a grant of probate and distributing the deceased’s share according to the will or intestacy rules. This process can be time-consuming and may lead to disputes among beneficiaries.

Disputes and Resolution

Joint ownership can sometimes lead to disputes, particularly when co-owners have different intentions or financial difficulties arise. It’s crucial to have mechanisms in place for resolving such disputes amicably.

Common Disputes

Disputes often arise over the sale of the property, division of proceeds, or responsibility for maintenance and mortgage payments. In the case of joint tenancy, disagreements may occur if one owner wishes to sever the joint tenancy to create a tenancy in common, especially if the co-owners do not agree.

Resolution Mechanisms

Disputes can be resolved through negotiation, mediation, or, in more severe cases, legal action. Mediation is a cost-effective and less adversarial method, allowing parties to reach a mutually acceptable solution. If mediation fails, the matter may be taken to court, where a judge can make a binding decision on the division of property or sale.

Case Studies and Examples

To illustrate the practical implications of joint ownership, consider the following case studies:

Case Study 1: Joint Tenancy Between Spouses

John and Mary purchased their home as joint tenants. When John passed away unexpectedly, the property automatically transferred to Mary without the need for probate. This seamless transfer allowed Mary to continue living in the home without legal complications. However, it’s important to note that John’s share of the property was still considered part of his estate for inheritance tax purposes.

Case Study 2: Tenancy in Common Among Siblings

Three siblings, Alice, Bob, and Carol, inherited a property as tenants in common. Alice owned 50%, while Bob and Carol each owned 25%. When Alice passed away, her share of the property went through probate and was distributed according to her will, which specified that her share should be sold and the proceeds given to her children. This arrangement allowed each sibling to have clear ownership shares and enabled Alice to control the distribution of her estate.

Estate Planning Considerations

Choosing between joint tenancy and tenancy in common requires careful estate planning and consideration of the individuals’ goals and circumstances.

Advantages of Joint Tenancy

The primary advantage of joint tenancy is the right of survivorship, which can simplify the transfer of property upon death. This arrangement is often ideal for spouses who wish to ensure that the surviving partner automatically inherits the property without going through probate. Joint tenancy also fosters a sense of shared ownership and responsibility, which can strengthen the relationship between co-owners.

Advantages of Tenancy in Common

tenancy in common offers flexibility in ownership shares and is better suited for co-owners who may have different financial contributions or estate planning goals. It allows each owner to pass on their share of the property according to their will, providing greater control over the distribution of their estate. This arrangement is often preferred by business partners, friends, or family members who wish to maintain individual ownership rights.

Inheritance Tax Considerations

Inheritance tax (IHT) is a crucial consideration in joint ownership, as it can significantly impact the financial implications of property transfer upon death.

IHT on Joint Tenancy

In a joint tenancy, the value of the deceased’s share of the property is included in their estate for IHT purposes. However, the surviving joint tenant(s) may benefit from certain reliefs and exemptions, such as the spousal exemption, which can reduce or eliminate the IHT liability.

IHT on Tenancy in Common

For tenants in common, each owner’s share of the property is treated as part of their estate and subject to IHT. This can lead to significant tax liabilities, particularly if the property value has appreciated substantially. Effective estate planning, including the use of trusts and lifetime gifts, can help mitigate these tax implications.


It is important to understand the benefits and challenges of joint property ownership, whether you opt for joint tenancy or tenancy in common. Seeking professional advice from DLS Solicitors can help you navigate the legal, financial, and tax implications and ensure that your property ownership arrangement aligns with your estate planning goals.

Joint tenancy offers a streamlined process for property transfer upon death through the right of survivorship, making it an attractive option for spouses and close family members. On the other hand, tenancy in common provides flexibility in ownership shares and greater control over the distribution of the estate, making it suitable for co-owners with different financial contributions or estate planning objectives.

To avoid disputes and ensure a smooth transition of property ownership, effective communication among co-owners and thorough estate planning are crucial. By understanding the nuances of joint ownership and seeking professional guidance, you can make informed decisions that protect your interests and those of your beneficiaries.

For further assistance with joint ownership, probate, or estate planning, don’t hesitate to get in touch with DLS Solicitors. Their experienced team is here to provide tailored advice and support to help you navigate these complex legal matters.

Joint Ownership FAQ'S

Joint ownership is when two or more people own a property together. In the UK, there are two types of joint ownership: Joint Tenancy and Tenancy in Common.

In Joint Tenancy, all owners have an equal share of the property, and the right of survivorship applies, meaning the property automatically passes to the surviving co-owners upon one owner’s death. In Tenancy in Common, owners can have unequal shares, and there is no right of survivorship; each owner’s share passes according to their Will or the rules of intestacy.

Yes, you can convert Joint Tenancy to Tenancy in Common through a legal process called severance. This usually involves serving a notice of severance to the other joint tenants and registering the change with the Land Registry.

In Joint Tenancy, the deceased owner’s share automatically passes to the surviving joint owners through the right of survivorship, regardless of the deceased’s Will.

In Tenancy in Common, the deceased owner’s share of the property passes according to their Will or the rules of intestacy if there is no Will. It does not automatically pass to the other co-owners.

All joint owners must agree to sell the property. If one owner wants to sell and the others do not, the owner wishing to sell may need to apply to the court for an order to sell the property.

Yes, in a Tenancy in Common, joint owners can own different percentages of the property, which should be clearly documented in a Deed of Trust.

A Deed of Trust, also known as a Declaration of Trust, is a legal document that outlines each owner’s share in a property and the terms of ownership. It is often used in Tenancy in Common arrangements to specify unequal shares.

Joint owners are collectively responsible for property taxes such as council tax. How they share this responsibility can be agreed upon between them.

If joint owners cannot agree on the sale of the property, one owner can apply to the court for an order to force the sale. The court will consider the circumstances and make a decision based on what is fair and reasonable.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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