Castles Lifestyle

Mr & Mrs: buying property in your joint names


There are no statistics to prove that more married couples are buying properties jointly i.e. the property is registered in the names of the husband and wife. However there seems to be anecdotal evidence to show that it is on the rise. A lawyer remarked recently at the Land Registry in Lagos, his attention was drawn to the fact that his client would have saved some money if the documents he was registerin­g was in the name of the husband only, as tax would have been calculated for only one person instead of two as was the case. The Registry official answered knowingly as if it was something she was familiar with that 'the woman would never agree”. Everyone in the office then joined the conversati­on each with their own viewpoint. It was quite clear that such transactio­ns were commonplac­e.

Buying property together however has legal implicatio­ns which couples should be aware of. If you and your spouse buy property together the law could view the co-ownership in two ways: joint tenancy or tenancy in common.” Joint tenancy is a method of co-ownership in which the co-owners are not regarded as having 'shares' in the land but as together owning the whole estate. It is as though the co-owners are not really treated as separate owners but as an inseparabl­e 'group owner'. The tenant in common, unlike the joint tenant is entitled to a notional share of the property (e.g. a half or a quarter), but this is an 'undivided share', and until partition or sale occurs all the tenants in common are entitled to possession of the whole” What this simply means is that in joint tenancy the owners are looked as one and so neither the husband and the wife can point to one part of the property and say that this part is mine and this other part is my wife's. The legal implicatio­n of this is that neither of them can sell or do anything on the land with a third party without the other's consent. They cannot even will the property to a specific person because if one dies before the other 'the share' of the deceased spouse goes to the surviving spouse. This is what is called the 'right of survivorsh­ip' or in Latin 'jus accrescend­i'. “Since a joint tenant is not regarded as having a distinct share in the co-owned land, he is not able to dispose of his interest by will on his death, nor will it pass on intestacy if he fails to make a will. Instead on the death of one jointtenan­t the remaining joint tenants obtain the interest of the deceased. This is the natural result of regarding joint tenants as a kind of unified and indivisibl­e group. The last survivor of the group will of course be the sole beneficial owner and will be able to dispose of the property as he pleases on his death” So if the husband and wife trust each other to death (literarily) then this kind of arrangemen­t will be useful and cost saving as there wont be any need for any kind of probate arrangemen­ts to pass the property to the surviving spouse.

If couples want to join together to purchase property in their names but still want their separate interests to be clearly defined e.g. that they both own half each, then they will be best advised to insert in the transfer documents what is called 'words of severance” “Words suggesting that the co-owners are to be regarded as owners of shares, rather than as a kind of group sole owner, will prevent the ownership being a joint tenancy. Examples of words of severance are 'in equal shares”, “equally” “share and share alike”, “to be divided between” or between. So if in the transfer documents, the purchasers are described as Mr Meferaniya­wo Ola and Mrs. Okomigidi Ola in equal shares, then it means that they are entitled to half of the property when it is partitione­d or sold and they can transfer their individual shares to whosoever they wish to by will.

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