Question: My father died many years ago and my mother remarried. She then bought a house with my stepfather in 2005. When my stepfather died about six years ago, my mother stayed in the property until recently when she passed away. I am an only child, and in her will my mother left everything to me and appointed me as her executor.
I have been looking at the deeds to the house and it is registered at the Land Registry in the joint names of my mother and my late stepfather. The solicitor, who has my mother’s original will, says that this is not a problem as the house automatically passed to my mother when my stepfather died, but that this was not registered at the Land Registry. What should I do now?
Answer: The property must have been registered in the joint names of your mother and stepfather, in which case they each had equal rights to the property. On the death of the first one of them, the property automatically passed to the survivor, who was your mother. Even if your stepfather had a will, he could not have passed on his interest in the property under the terms of that will, as he and your mother held the property as beneficial joint tenants.
If a copy of your stepfather’s death certificate is sent to the Land Registry, then his name will be removed from the register of title and the property will be registered in the sole name of your mother. For the property to be transferred into your name, a grant of probate will need to be issued and an assent prepared, which will vest the property in your name.
You are not obliged to use the solicitor who holds the will to administer the estate.
You may instruct another law firm of your choice or you could apply for the grant of probate personally.
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These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.