If the deceased owned a property or part of the property interest, it does not necessarily mean that his/her successor could inherit the property ownership. One has to note that if the deceased co-owned a property with other person(s), the successor might not be the one who inherits the property interests.
Inheritance of Property Ownership
Before handling the estate of the deceased, one has to obtain a Grant of Representation from the Probate Registry of the High Court to prove that a person has the right to deal with the estate of the deceased. Since the estate might involve properties or buildings, and the inheritance of which requires legal knowledge and experience, it is more appropriate to have it handled by a law firm.
Sole Ownership or Tenancy in Common of a Property
If the sole owner or co-owner of a property passed away, the inheritance of property interests would depend on the will of the deceased. One has to apply for a Grant of Probate from the court which will determine the validity of the will, and appoint an executor. If the deceased made no will, the estate would be administered according to the Intestates’ Estates Ordinance. One has to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration to appoint an administrator.
If the deceased was the co-owner of a property and held 50% of the property interest, that 50% would be considered a part of the estate which could be sold out by the successor. However, if the successor would like to sell the whole property, one has to negotiate with other co-owners and obtain all co-owners』 approval.
When one seeks to sell the property through an estate agent, in order to verify the identity of the successor, one has to provide the original copy of the death certificate of the deceased and relevant documents, i.e. a Grant of Probate if the deceased made a will or Letters of Administration in case of an absence of a will.
On the other hand, when signing a provisional agreement for sale and purchase, if A and B are the co-owners of a property owning half of the interests each, and B is A』s executor upon the death of A, the property owners stated on the provisional agreement would be B and B (the executor of A’s will). It has to be stated this way even if B is entitled to full ownership of the property.
If the executor of A is a third party C, the owner column on the provisional agreement would be stated as B and C (the executor of A』s will).
Death of a Co-owner under Joint Tenancy
Under joint tenancy, the surviving joint tenant would enjoy priority of property inheritance. Full ownership of the property would fall into the longest-living co-owner instead of becoming a part of the deceased』 estate. One has to register a death certificate at the Land Registry so as to verify the death of a co-owner. A joint tenant could not give the property interests to a survivor through making a will.
Under joint tenancy, the property interest would be automatically transferred upon the death of the co-owner(s). If the longest-living co-owner want to transfer the property to another person, be it in the form of a property transaction or a gift, he/she only needs to state on the deed that the rest of the co-owners have passed away and provide relevant death certificates.
In fact, a co-owner under joint tenancy could designate a successor of the property interests through hiring a lawyer to draw up a partition deed, notify other co-owners, and register the deed on the land register of the Land Registry. On the other hand, the co-owner could also apply for a change from joint tenancy to tenancy in common and notify other co-owners accordingly through engaging a law firm.