When someone dies, any property that they left behind will need to be sold or transferred to a living beneficiary. This responsibility will either fall to the executor or administrator of their estate, or to a living tenant who still resides in their property. The person responsible and the process they must follow depends on how the property was owned and registered.
This article will explain the three different ways that property can be owned and how each of these affects the process by which it can be transferred.
Before you can deal with property, you must figure out how it is owned and whether it is registered.
You can find out important information about a property by searching for it on the Land Registry website. If the property is registered, there will be a document that you can download which will show you the title of the property, whose name it is registered under, and whether it was owned solely by the deceased or jointly with another person.
If the property was jointly owned, the document will tell you whether it was owned as ‘joint tenants’ or as ‘tenants in common’. This distinction is important, as it determines how the property will be inherited.
Some properties are unregistered and so cannot be found on the Land Registry website. This might be because the property is in a rural location or has been owned by the family for a particularly long time. If this is the case, you should locate the physical deed documentation which may be stored in the deceased’s property alongside other important documents such as the Will, or with their bank or solicitor.
Property owned in the sole name of the deceased is relatively simple to deal with. If the property is to be transferred and not sold, then it will be transferred to the beneficiary who is entitled to inherit it according to the Will. If there is no Will, the property will be transferred to whoever is due to inherit the most according to the Rules of Intestacy. This is a set of laws that places relatives of the deceased in order of importance, with spouses and children taking priority.
To transfer the property to the beneficiary, the executor or administrator of the estate will need to fill out a document known as an ‘Assent’ and submit it to the Land Registry. A grant of representation (either a grant of probate if there is a valid Will or a grant of letters of administration if there is not) will be required too. This is because the Land Registry needs to see confirmation that you have the legal authority to administer the deceased’s estate.
When the Assent has been approved, the Land Registry will transfer the property into the name of the beneficiary.
‘Joint tenants’ means that property is owned equally by two people, with neither holding a larger portion than the other. The property is not technically split 50/50 either, as neither owner has an identifiable share.
If the other owner is still alive, the property automatically passes to them under the Right of Survivorship. In this case, it is the responsibility of the executor or administrator to fill in and submit a Deceased Joint Proprietor form, along with a death certificate, to the Land Registry. This removes the deceased’s name from the deed so that the living tenant owns the property in its entirety. A grant of representation is not required for this transfer.
Because the deceased did not own a distinguishable share of the property, they cannot override the Right of Survivorship by leaving the property to a different beneficiary in the Will. The property must be passed on to the surviving owner.
If the property is owned as joint tenants but is unregistered, it is advised that you register the property with the Land Registry in order to transfer the property officially to the sole name of the surviving tenant.
If a property is owned as ‘tenants in common’, it means that each party owns a specific percentage of the property. The Right of Survivorship does not apply to property owned as tenants in common.
The share of the property owned by the deceased should be dealt with in accordance with the Will. The deceased may have written that their share should be transferred to the living tenant or to someone else. If the deceased did not leave a Will, their share of the property should be dealt with in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy.
If the property is not being sold, the Land Registry does not need to see the grant of representation in order to transfer it. The person responsible for handling a transfer under these circumstances is the surviving joint owner. The property will need to be registered now if it is not already.
If you are unsure about how to find the property documentation or what route you need to take to transfer your loved one’s property to its rightful owner, it is advised that you hire legal advisors to help you. At Kwil, we offer a full estate administration service in which we will acquire your grant of representation for you and deal with every part of the estate administration in your place, from selling or transferring property to distributing assets to the beneficiaries.
Our costs will depend on the size and complexity of your loved one’s estate, but we will always charge a fixed fee with no hidden costs. Moreover, any money you spend on legal help during the probate process can be charged as an expense to the estate, meaning that you won’t need to pay out of pocket. If you are still unsure, you can give us a call so that we can talk you through the services we offer and supply you with a free quote.