Cohabitation: Joint Ownership of Property Solicitors
An unmarried couple going through a separation may not have the legal need for a divorce, but if they share a property together, or one owner can prove a Beneficial Interest in the property, then need quality family law advice to protect their financial interests.
Family law and Joint Ownership of Property
A “common law marriage” counts for nothing in the eyes of English family law. Living with another person – even if you have children – does not automatically grant you a right to the other person’s assets, including your family home. There are two options you have when buying a property: buying it as Joint Tenants or as Tenants in Common.
Joint Tenants have an equal partnership regardless of the amount of capital they invested or how much they pay towards the mortgage. If one owner dies, their share automatically reverts to the remaining owner. Neither owner can sell their share to a third party, and each owner will have an equal share in the profit (or be equally responsible for debt) when the property is sold.
Tenants in Common individually own a portion of the property. They may have equal shares, or they could be proportioned depending on each owner’s financial contribution. An owner can sell their share of the property – or part of it – to a third party (or to the other owner), and can also leave their share in their will to whomever they like. Tenants in Common is a good solution for a couple who each have children from previous relationships and who want to ringfence their inheritance.
Tenants in Common is useful if an owner has been gifted, or has inherited, the capital they are using as their deposit and they want to protect this in the case of separation or divorce. It can also be beneficial for cohabiting but unmarried couples as a way of managing Inheritance Tax.
If you are cohabiting with no intention of getting married or entering a Civil Partnership then you should seek legal advice to draw up a Cohabitation Agreement. This document will not only set out the terms of your property ownership, but also the details of how the costs of running the household are allocated, and what you want to happen in the event you separate. Even if a Cohabitation Agreement is not legally binding, it is commonly upheld by a court in the event you separate. Having things set out in a legal document will save you time, stress, and money with messy legal wrangling over an acrimonious split.
Separation and Joint Ownership of Property
You can change the type of ownership you have by seeing a solicitor. Couples who are separating or getting divorced may want to change from Joint Tenants to Tenants in Common so that if they die before their divorce is finalised, their share of the property goes to their estate and not to their ex-partner.
If you are a Joint Tenant, Tenant in Common or you have a registered Beneficial Interest in the property, you have a right to stay and live there. Your ex-partner can’t evict you, force the sale of the home, or remortgage it without your knowledge and agreement.
Contact a reputable firm of family solicitors for answers to your questions about jointly-owned property and divorce or separation.
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