Buying property from a sole surviving co-owner
Buying property from a sole surviving co-owner

The following Property guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Buying property from a sole surviving co-owner
  • Co-ownership
  • Purchasing property from a sole surviving co-owner
  • Registered land
  • Unregistered land
  • What is satisfactory evidence of death?
  • Deducing title to unregistered land

Co-ownership

Where property is purchased in the joint names of two or more co-owners a statutory ‘trust of land’ arises. Trustee Act 1925, s 34(2) limits the number of trustees to a maximum of four. If the property is purchased in the joint names of more than four co-owners, the legal estate vests in the first four listed.

Where property is held on a trust of land, the legal estate and equitable estate are separate. The co-owner trustees must hold the legal estate as joint tenants. A legal joint tenancy cannot be severed and when one joint tenant dies his legal interest in the property automatically passes to the remaining joint tenants. However, co-owners can hold the beneficial interest in the legal estate on trust for themselves (and any additional co-owners) as:

  1. joint tenants, or

  2. tenants in common

Joint tenants in equity

Joint tenants are each entitled to the whole of the property. The key feature of a joint tenancy is the right of survivorship. When one joint tenant dies, his interest in the property automatically passes to the remaining joint tenants (regardless of any contrary intention expressed in his will). The last survivor becomes the sole beneficial owner. However, a joint tenancy in equity can be severed and converted into a tenancy in common. See Practice Note: Severance of