Neither of my parents have a will, so does ownership of the house automatically come to me?

Q I own my home with my parents. It’s jointly owned between me, my mother and my father. Also living here are my husband and my son (who are not named as joint owners).

My parents haven’t got wills. What happens to my home if I’m still living here when they die? Does the property automatically come to me or does it go to probate?

Also if they were to do wills and maybe, for example, leave their share to my son, what happens then? Do I have to buy him out?

A It depends how you and your parents jointly own the property. If you are all joint tenants, when one joint owner dies, the property automatically belongs to the two remaining joint owners and then passes automatically to whoever is left when the second joint owner dies. So if your mother dies, the house goes to you and your father and then to you when he dies. If you are joint tenants, the fact that your parents don’t have wills makes no difference to what happens to the house if either of them dies.

If, however, you and your parents own the house as tenants in common, the property doesn’t automatically pass to whoever survives on the death of one joint owner. As tenants in common, you each own a distinct share in the property which can be left as a gift in a will (something which can’t be done if you own property as joint tenants).

If a tenant in common dies, his or her share in the property makes up part of his or her estate. Where there is no will, who gets what is decided by the intestacy rules. In England and Wales, on the death of a spouse or civil partner, the survivor of the couple keeps everything – including the share in the property along with savings and investments – up to £250,000 and a half share of anything left over. The other half is shared out between the couple’s children.

If your parents do decide to make wills – and assuming you are tenants in common – they can each leave their share in the house to whoever they like. If your son inherited a share, he would become a joint owner alongside you and your surviving parent. You would have to buy your son out only if he wanted to sell his share.

As already stated, making wills makes no difference to what happens on the death of a joint owner to a property owned as joint tenants.