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Do I need a will when I buy a house?

By Ellie Stothard, Emily Bosworth

Published In: Wills and Probate

Buying a home is probably the biggest purchase you will make in your lifetime. If you own property, it’s really important that you have a will in place, but let’s consider what would happen to your property if you died without making a will.

Photo of young couple getting keys to property

What happens to my property if I don’t have a will?

Who your property passes to on your death depends on how the property is owned. There are three different ways that you can own a property:

  • Solely
  • Joint Tenants
  • Tenants in Common


If you own a property solely, you own the property by yourself and not with any other person. If you pass away without a will, your property passes in accordance with the rules of intestacy.

If you are married or in a civil partnership the solely owned property passes to your spouse if don’t have children. If you do have children, your spouse will receive the property up to the value of £322,000 and the remainder will be split in half, with one half going to your spouse and the remaining half to your children. 

If you are not married and have children, your solely owned property will pass equally to your children, or your grandchildren if your own children have predeceased you.

If you are not married and you do not have any children, your property will pass to your parents equally, if they are still living, and if not to your siblings (or to their children). The intestacy rules then extend further to other blood relatives, grandparents then aunts and then cousins.  If there are no surviving relatives at all, your property passes to the Crown.

If you are a sole owner of a property, it’s important that you have a will in place to make sure that your property is passed to the people (or maybe charities) that you would like to inherit it.

Joint Tenants

If you own a property with someone as joint tenants, it means that you own 100% of the property together and do not have your own distinct shares in the property.The property, therefore, automatically passes to the other surviving owner, this is called the right of survivorship. This means that even if you do have a will in place, the property will pass outside of your will and to the surviving owner, no matter what your will says. Consequently, if you own a property with someone as joint tenants and you would like to pass your share onto someone other than the co-owner of your property, it is vital that you seek legal advice.

Tenants in Common

The final way in which you can own a property is as tenants in common. This means that you each own your own shares of the property. For example, you can own the property 50/50, so that you each own an equal amount, or you can own the property in different shares, such as 60/40, so that one owner has a larger share than the other.

If you own a property as tenants in common and you pass away without a will, your share passes in accordance with the rules of intestacy, as outlined above. This means that if you want a specific person to receive your share of the property, you should ensure that you put a will in place so that you determine what happens to your share upon your death.

Paying off any mortgage debt

If the property is mortgaged the debt will need to be repaid. How and when the mortgage debt is repaid will depend on whether the property is owned solely or jointly.

 If the property is owned jointly, the mortgage debt will become the responsibility of the surviving owner. If life insurance cover is in place this will usually repay the mortgage so that the debt is not passed on.

 If the property is owned solely, the mortgage debt will stay as your estate’s responsibility. If there is insufficient money in the estate to pay off the mortgage debt, the person dealing with the administration of the estate may need to sell the property to repay the mortgage. 

Whilst conversations about making wills may be difficult to have, it is important to consider and put measures in place to protect your property, family and friends and your wishes in the future.

 If you’d like to discuss making a will, or changing an existing will, our friendly team is on hand to give you practical advice. Call 0800 138 0458 or email

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photo of Ellie Stothard

Ellie is a Solicitor in our Residential Conveyancing team. She has four years' experience in this area of law.

photo of Emily Bosworth

Emily is a Wills and Probate Advisor.  She’s based in our Wakefield office.

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