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Can all assets be held as joint tenants?

If all assets in a marriage are held as joint tenants will probate (and huge new fees) be needed?

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I suppose this might be more of a legal than an accountancy question, but here goes.

My wife and I agree that beneficial ownership of all our assets is shared equally between us. We have "mirror" wills under which each of us leaves all our assets to the survivor. All our properties (ie: land and buildings) are held as joint tenants. All our bank and building society accounts are joint. But shares in companies are held in individual names - we are each registered as the owner of individual blocks of shares. And there are a few chattels where ownership is recorded (usually on the original invoice or bill of sale) in the name of one of us alone.

I am wondering whether we could make a declaration by deed for each relevant asset to the effect that we own the asset as joint tenants. In the case of assets where ownership is registered (principally shares) we would then submit the deed to the registrar and ask for ownership to be registered jointly. When one of us dies the survivor would then submit an official copy of the death certificate to the registrar with a request that ownership be registered in the sole name of the survivor. If chattels are sold after the death the relevant deed and an official copy of the death certificate would be provided to the buyer. There would therefore be no need for probate or even a copy of the will because surviving joint tenants automatically inherit. This is already the case with our bank and building society accounts. Probate will not be needed for the survivor to have access to the funds - all that is necessary in the case of a joint account is for the bank to be shown the death certificate. My wheeze is to try and make the same procedure apply to all other types of asset, without exception.

My motive is to avoid the hassle and cost of obtaining probate when the first of us dies. My theory is that if everything is owned as joint tenants there is no need for probate whatsoever. Or even a will! Am I mad?

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05th Apr 2017 11:15

You are right that this is largely (I would say entirely) a legal matter, not one for accountants. But I will just point out that the question of having wills or not is not just about whether there would be anything for one of you to bequeath to the survivor, but also about what happens, heaven forbid, if you die simultaneously or in such quick succession that the survivor has no time to execute a will after the first death.

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05th Apr 2017 14:44

Yes; that should work as long as both joint tenants are actually named on the relevant bank account or share register (e.g. to X and Y as joint tenants with right of survivorship, and not as tenants in common) and for a single person presumably they could avoid probate by simply having all their assets in a nominee company.
https://blog.step.org/2017/03/21/new-probate-fees-a-guide-for-the-public/

NB unlike real property (land), where personal property (e.g. chattels) is co-owned, there is no requirement for a trust (the owners can hold the property either as joint tenants or as tenants in common, without a separation of the legal and equitable interests).

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to Justin Bryant
05th Apr 2017 15:26

Thank you - this is beginning to look like a viable option for us.
My comment about not needing wills was flippant. Of course we must still have wills, and unfortunately our Joint Tenant tactic will not work when we have both died.

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05th Apr 2017 15:33

But the nominee company tactic above should work for the survivor.

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