Notice of Severance of Joint Tenancy
Our Notice of Severance of Joint Tenancy template:
- Solicitor-drafted for peace of mind
- Full guidance notes included
- Simple plain English
- Easy to edit and complete
How Does It Work?
Our Notice of Severance of Joint Tenancy template is for use by someone who:
- owns a property with another person as “joint tenants” (or “beneficial joint tenants”), and
- who now wishes to change the basis of their ownership to “tenants in common”.
We have drafted the letter to be short and simple. Firstly, you need to sign it and give a copy to the other owner. Secondly, if your property is registered land, you need to register the change in ownership basis at the Land Registry. See the notes near the end of this guide in this regard. For further information see: www.gov.uk/joint-property-ownership/overview.
What is a joint tenancy?
A joint tenancy basis means that if one owner dies, the other owner(s) inherit that share of the property automatically. You cannot leave your share in a joint tenancy property by your will. The transfer of your share takes effect separately when you die. For most people this is best. However, if you want to change this, you need to sever the joint tenancy. Then the property becomes owned on a “tenants in common” basis. You can then leave your share via your will and then there will be no automatic transfer of your share to the other owner when you die (and vice versa). See the section headed “The need for a new Will” below in this regard.
This simple letter allows you to sever the joint tenancy.
Why sever a joint tenancy?
As noted above, there are various reasons you might want to sever the joint tenancy. The 2 most common ones are:
1. Relationship difficulties
If you own a property on a joint tenancy basis with your spouse but you are in relationship difficulties, e.g. separated, but not yet divorced, you might:
(a) sever the joint tenancy and
(b) make a new will.
This is in case one of you dies before the divorce (and all the related financial arrangements) has been finalised.
Severing the joint tenancy means that, if you die before you finalise your divorce, your spouse won’t simply inherit your share of it, as your next of kin. It means you could in the meantime make a new will and then be able to leave your share of the property to someone else, e.g. your children. If either of you have started divorce proceedings, the severance has no actual effect on the outcome of them. This is because the two of you still own the property. So it will still be sorted out either by agreement or by the court under its normal rules.
2. Concerns over care home fees
If you are concerned about the payment of future care home fees by the survivor of the two of you, you might sever the joint tenancy.
By (a) severing the joint tenancy, and (b) not leaving your share of the property to the other owner in your will (so long as you have made a will), if the survivor has to go into a care home, the care fees they incur can only be taken out of their share of the property.
Thus you avoid losing the entire value of the home in care fees, and you could leave your share direct to your children for example. (NB Whether the whole of the property is in fact at risk will depend on the law concerning the payment of care fees and whether there are, at the time, any limits on how much of the property the person owns can be taken to pay the care fees.)
You can see in both of the above examples that you sever the joint tenancy AND make a new will.
The need for a new Will
If you use this notice but then have made no will specifying where your share goes and the other owner is your spouse, i.e. your next of kin, there is a risk that they will inherit your share of the property and own it outright, and then you are “back at square one” – The rules of intestacy would apply here if there was no will, with a large portion of your estate normally going to your spouse.
Therefore it is important that, as well as severing the joint tenancy, you make a new will immediately and in it you do not leave your share in the property to your spouse after you have severed your joint tenancy. For our full range of will templates, please click here.
Clauses in this Notice of Severance of Joint Tenancy
Address it at the top to the person you own the property with as joint tenants – usually this will be your spouse. (In the unlikely event that it is more than one person, then put all their names and addresses in here.)
Fill in the date, i.e. the actual date you sign the Notice of Severance of Joint Tenancy.
Below the date, after where it says “Dear”, fill in the name or names of the person(s) to whom it is addressed. Just as with a normal letter, you can use their first names here if you like.
In the next paragraph fill in (a) the full address of the property in question (with the postcode) and (b) the title number it has at the Land Registry, presuming it is registered land. If it is not registered land, then delete the words “, which is registered at The Land Registry with title number [NUMBER]”.
In the next paragraph if you own the property equally then keep the words “equal shares” and delete the rest of the paragraph and the 2 bullet points below. If not, then instead keep the other option and fill in the percentages you each have and your names in the bullet points below.
Treat this as a simple letter, so finish it off by signing it and stating your name below. Give (or send) 2 copies to the other owner (or to each of the other owners if more than 1 other). You can sign both copies.
Fill in the name of the recipient in the paragraph and again below where they are to sign. When they sign one copy, they should date it with the date on which they actually sign it.
They should give (or send) that signed one back to you. However, getting a receipted one back from them is not essential (for example if they are not in agreement). You can still proceed with registering the severance notice of joint tenancy at the Land Registry.
Registration of the Notice of Severance of Joint Tenancy
If the property is registered land at the Land Registry, you now need to register this change with the Land Registry. They will note a “restriction” on the title. The procedure you need to follow is set out on the following web page: https://www.gov.uk/joint-property-ownership/change-from-joint-tenants-to-tenants-in-common.
You can download the Land Registry form “SEV” you need for free from that web page. There is no fee for registering the Notice of Severance of Joint Tenancy at the Land Registry.