A unique Title Number is allocated by the Land Registry to every property that is registered with them. This identifies the property and its owners and distinguishes it from other properties having similar addresses. Registration of a property with the Land Registry has been compulsory since 1 December 1990 in England and Wales, however, if you purchased your home before this date then it may not be registered.
Unregistered property can not only add complications to the conveyancing process should you wish to sell but living in an unregistered property can also put you at risk of property fraud.
To be able to sell an unregistered property you will need to prove unbroken ownership for the last 15 years. This can be done through the production of the original title deeds, plans and documents. If the title deeds cannot be found or have been destroyed, then your conveyancer will need to make a case for registration to the Land Registry with sufficient evidence to prove unbroken ownership. This is known as the reconstitution of the Deeds.
Owners of an unregistered property are more at risk of fraudulent claims, with one of the more common being a fraudulent application to the Land Registry for Adverse Possession. An Adverse Possession claim can be sought where someone has occupied an unregistered property without objection from, permission of, or payment to the true owner for an uninterrupted 12 years or more. If your property is registered, then the Land Registry can inform you if an application for Adverse Possession is submitted via their Property Alert service. This service informs owners of any ‘significant activity’ against your property, but this only applies to registered Titles, so to be able to receive these alerts we advise that you register your property. Our experienced team can assist with this on your behalf.
Why is it important to update your property Title if circumstances change?
As part of our Estate Planning service, if your property is registered with the Land Registry, then we will obtain office copies to check the Title for you. This allows the Wills team to consider whether there is a Life Interest Trust in place. If there is, it is important that the property Title is updated.
A Life Interest Trust ensures that your share of the property is inherited by the terms of your Will and that it does not pass automatically to your spouse. This is important if you are concerned about the family home being used to pay for the surviving spouse’s care home fees. The surviving spouse however does retain right to live in the property for the rest of his/her life but will simply not inherit the ownership of the deceased’s share of the property. It will pass under the terms of the Will, most commonly to children.
Quite often when we do these checks, we find that there will be a deceased spouse/partner still named on the Title and therefore it is important that the Title is updated to remove them.
Where the Title has not been updated to reflect the Will Trust, Local Authorities are now using this as an opportunity to challenge the deceased’s wishes and will argue that the whole value of the property should be included within the care fee assessment for the surviving spouse/partner, on the basis that the Title has not been updated and so there was no intention for a Life Interest to be in place. When we spot this on a Title review, we will advise you to update the Title, but can also do this on your behalf as part of our estate planning and Will writing process should you wish.
If your property is unregistered, then the Wills Team will check the deeds if we have them or request them from you. We can also then help you to register the property to ensure that the Title is updated to date in accordance with your Will.
Trust Registration Service
If when we do a property Title check, we find that you do have a Will Trust registered on there, we will also now advise you that the Trust needs to be registered with the HRMC under the Trust Registration Service (TRS). This is something that our team are experienced with and can help you every step of the way.