Legally, there are two types of joint ownership, joint equity or property co-buying. You can either own the property as ‘joint tenants' or as ‘tenants in common'. Do not be put off by the terminology. It has nothing to do with tenancies and applies to freehold or leasehold land.
Under this agreement the joint owners together own the whole property and do not have a particular share in it. If one of the owners dies the other automatically becomes the sole owner. This would be the case even if a will had been made leaving the deceased owner's ‘share' to someone other than the co-owner.
This is the opposite of joint tenancy in that the tenants in common each have a definite share in the property. For example, A and B could own the property in equal shares, or A could own one fifth with B owning four fifths. This would be the most appropriate agreement where people want to own property in separate pre-determined shares.
Under this form of ownership, if one of the owners dies, his or her share of the property will pass on to whoever he or she specifies in a Will. It is strongly recommended that a Will be made when buying a property as Tenants in Common.
If a Will is not made, then your share of the property will be distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy (dying without leaving a valid Will).
This depends upon personal choice and your particular circumstances. The joint tenancy is most commonly adopted between married couples where there is perceived to be no advantage in defining separate shares in the property and where it would be the intention that on the first death the property would automatically pass to the surviving spouse. The problem with this is that the whole of the property will pass into the survivor’s estate upon first death, which may then mean that the property will be assessed for care costs and also have Inheritance tax implications on second death.
The alternative basis of a tenancy in common will often be used between brothers and sisters, parents and children, unmarried couples, business partners and the like. In these relationships it might be desirable for specific shares in the property to be identified and for each owner to be able to leave his or her share in the property to a named person other than the owner.
Owning your property as Tenants In Common also forms part of the strategy in avoiding losing your home to care costs.