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When a family member dies it raises not only emotional issues, but practical ones too. If the deceased is a property owner, it also raises questions about what will happen to their interest in the property.

Followers of the TV soap opera Coronation Street are currently watching emotional scenes leading up to the death of popular character Hayley Cropper, who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Hayley and her husband Roy own both a flat and the business below, a café known as Roy’s Rolls. The couple have no children, but Hayley has an estranged son, Christian, from a previous marriage and a foster daughter, Fiz.

Roy owned the flat/cafe before he met Hayley so what will happen to it after she’s gone, assuming that Roy owned and then transferred them both into joint names?

This is the point at which family members often contact us for guidance as to what they need to do. In fact questions about how to update property details when someone dies is one of the most frequently asked questions we get.

The most likely outcome is that Roy would probably just need to notify us of Hayley’s death either by using a form DJP or writing to us along with an official copy of the death certificate.

But we don’t know where the storyline is going and Roy may decide to sell up and move on or we may find out that Hayley has left her share to one or both of her children?

If he is the sole legal owner or Hayley’s share has simply passed to him as her next of kin, for example, then selling up can be straightforward and much like any other sale. But if Hayley has left a will leaving her share to her son/daughter this could complicate things. If she has, then Roy and Hayley may have drawn up separate wills or a deed of trust and registered themselves as tenants in common with what we refer to as a joint ownership restriction. As a result Roy may well have to appoint someone to act as a co-seller, as the restriction means he cannot simply sell it on his own or he may need to Transfer the titles into new joint names.

Our website contains a lot of information about what to do when a property owner dies and about joint property ownership.

Alex Cook
By Alex Cook,
Customer Service Centre Team Leader at HM Land Registry Wales Office