Jointly owned property (property not in your sole name)
There are two ways of owning property jointly. One is known as ‘joint tenancy’ and the other as ‘tenancy in common’. The distinction is important since it determines whether property can be passed under a will.
Joint tenancy means that on the death of one owner, that person’s share is inherited by the surviving joint owner by the very act of surviving regardless of what is written in the deceased’s will.
A tenancy in common means that on the death of one joint owner, the deceased person’s share passes according to his or her will.
How do you know whether jointly owned property is held as a joint tenancy or a tenancy in common? Generally, bank and building society accounts in joint names are held as a joint tenancy. If there is any evidence to show that each owner owned separate shares of the property rather than each owner owning the entirety, the property is held as a tenancy in common. Property that is held as a joint tenancy is owned equally by the named individuals. Words or actions suggesting that the owners own unequally indicates that the assets are held as a tenancy in common.
Property that is jointly owned by married couples is usually but not necessarily held as a joint tenancy. This is the usual arrangement for married couples with property held in joint names such that when one person dies the surviving spouse automatically gets the deceased person’s share.
Since you can not leave property held as a joint tenancy by will, you must first sever the joint tenancy to create a tenancy in common if you wish to leave your share of the property by will.