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How should property be treated when planning your estate?

Understanding the difference between property ownership models is important for estate planning.

Property often makes up the bulk of a person's estate, making it an important area of consideration during the estate planning process. However, gifting property is also governed by its own set of rules that individuals will need to be aware of if they want to manage the distribution of their estate effectively.

Property that is owned outright by one individual can be assigned as part of the estate planning process in the same manner as any other asset class.

In some situations, a property will be held jointly with another individual, in a situation known as joint tenancy. The most common scenario for this to occur would be if a married couple shared in the ownership of a single property.

When a property is held under joint tenancy, it will automatically pass to the surviving tenant in the event that one of them outlives the other. While this takes some of the stress out of planning for the future share of a property, it is still important to consider this arrangement during estate planning.

If your partner passes away before you, for example, you will become the sole owner of the property.

Alternatively, property can be held in a tenancy in common – where an individual shares a stake in a property. In this situation, the share of a property can be transferred as part of a will and won't be automatically received by the other co-owner(s).

With property forming such a significant part of an estate, and with different potential ownership structures, it is important to get the right level of support during the estate planning process. Contacting a wills and estates lawyer is an essential step for anyone deciding how to distribute their assets within a will.