The Two Types of Co-ownership in Ireland and their Importance for Succession Law

A married couple own a home together. The husband makes a will leaving his share in the house to his daughter. Despite this, his share in the property goes to his wife instead of his daughter as specified in his will when he passes. Why?

The answer relates to the two different types of co-ownership in Ireland, namely joint tenancy and tenancy-in-common.

A joint tenancy means that the co-owners share equal undivided shares in the property. A tenancy-in-common is similarly a share-holding in a property, but it does not have to be an equal one. The main difference between these two types of co-ownership arises when one of the co-owners dies.

In the case of a joint tenancy, when one party dies the surviving owner will automatically obtain the share of the deceased. This is known as the rule of survivorship. This is particularly important for succession law, as the beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate will have no claim to the property under a joint tenancy.

This is in contrast to a tenancy in common, where the deceased can bestow their interest in the property through their will. This is because in a tenancy-in-common the co-owners share their interests in the property independently. Therefore, in the example above, had the property been owned under a tenancy-in-common the daughter would have inherited her father’s share without difficulty.

If someone is not aware of these differences it can create problems, especially in the case of death. If you own property along with another person, it is essential to have the nature of your interest clarified before making a will. Otherwise, your intentions upon death can be overridden by the law of survivorship.


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