Increasing property prices and our ageing population mean that more family members – particularly parents and grown up children – end up sharing ownership of the same property. This can seem like a neat and easy way to tackle several issues – but there are some potential drawbacks.
Avoiding potential disputes comes down to exploring what would happen to the property in different situations, and then ensuring that appropriate legal agreements are in place that reflect everyone’s interests and wishes.
Situations to Consider
The usual form of home ownership in this country is that a single person or couple own the property as joint tenants or tenants in common. Adding another person or couple to the mix makes it more complicated when circumstances change. Here are some of the most common issues:
- Separation. If an elderly person is living with a son or daughter and their partner, what happens if the couple separate or divorce?
- Inheritance. What happens to the older person’s share of the property if there are multiple beneficiaries in their will (such as other children)? What various parties may have said to each other about their intentions has no legal force.
- Falling out. What happens if the arrangement doesn’t work out and one or other party wants to sell their interest in the property?
If the arrangement involves creating an annexe or self-contained accommodation, there could be an additional council tax liability. It would certainly be worth checking with your local council first rather than potentially face a large bill for backdated payments.
Financial arrangements relating to property purchases must also be clear. Are financial contributions from parents loans, investments or gifts? And could the arrangements be seen as deliberate deprivation of assets if the older party needs social care later on?
Jointly investing in property can have implications for existing wills and estate planning. These arrangements should be checked carefully. As with all of the other issues listed above, it’s a good idea to talk to a solicitor who specialises in property and estate planning.