It is a huge misconception in this country that if you are “joint homeowners”, you own the house on a 50%/50% basis. This is not true and contrary to many Wills we have seen in the past, you cannot leave half the house to your children, because you don’t own half the house!! Joint Homeowners means BOTH spouses own the property 100% EACH.
So, on the first death, the survivor ALREADY owns the complete property 100%, and it cannot, therefore, be left to children or other family members. Because BOTH parties own the property 100% and the local authority only take assets owned 100% by the person needing residential care, it shows why so many properties are taken to pay for care fees.
Let’s give you all the facts about home ownership. There are only 3 ways to own a property in this country and, in addition, only 4 people maximum, can appear on a title deed.
Joint Tenants (known as Joint Homeowners). Between 1 and 4 people ALL own the property 100% EACH. This is the “default” ownership method, but quite dangerous if one of the owners needs to pay for care fees!
Tenants in Common
Between 2 and 4 people own the property, holding a certain percentage each – usually a couple are 50%/50%, but this could just as easily be 25%/75% or any other percentage, and 4 people might own the property 25% each. This is useful if a couple meet and marry in later life, where each wants to ensure their 50% ownership passes to their own family and not to the family of the “recent” spouse.
Trust owned. The property is owned by a Trust, which is run and operated by a number of Trustees, for the benefit of themselves or others or a mixture of Trustees and other beneficiaries.
Mix and match!!!
And, just to make it complicated, you can mix and match!!! For example, an elderly lady passed away and gave her house equally to her 4 children (Tenants in Common at 25% each). However, the youngest child wanted to pass her 25% share to her 3 sons. This would mean 6 owners for the house, which is not possible. The solution was to create a Trust for the 25% owned by the youngest child, since the Trust is a single “owner”. The beneficiaries of this Trust were the 3 sons, allowing them to share her 25% between them, once the property was eventually sold.
Title Deed Reference Number
Finally, every property has to be registered at the Land Registry office, which issues a Title Deed Reference Number for every property. BD123456 might be a valid number (BD is Bedfordshire), or SYK12345 (South Yorkshire). Every property since 1986-1988 has been registered when a new buyer purchases a house. If you have owned your house since before 1986 and it has never changed hands, there is a chance it will be unregistered. Guardian Legal can help with the registration process.
Call our Customer Services on 0330 088 2839 for further information.