Who your property passes to on your death will depend on a number of factors. Even if you have a Will it may not pass where you intend, so this is something you should address when planning for the future.
In Scotland, If the title to your property is held in joint names, this means that you and the other party each own a one-half share. The title could be taken in one of two ways, and this would have been determined at the time that you bought the property.
Either your respective one-half shares will pass into your estate on death and be distributed in terms of your Will (or Scottish succession law in the event of intestacy), or the title deed determines that the survivor will inherit the one-half share automatically at the time of the first death. This is known as a survivorship destination and is effective regardless of any provision in your Will passing the property elsewhere.
Survivorship destinations give rise to different issues, most notably where there is a marital breakdown or there is a need to carry out inheritance tax planning but the survivorship destination is preventing this. If your title deeds contain a survivorship destination, this can be easily rectified if both parties are in agreement.
In Scotland, if you die without a Will, amongst other provisions, your spouse/civil partner will inherit your interest in the family home you live in together up to a maximum value of £473,000. If the value of your interest in the property is beyond this, then it could be that they do not receive your property but a cash sum equivalent to what is due to them under the intestacy provisions.
If you are living with your partner but are unmarried, then they have no automatic rights to your property on death. In these circumstances, they can make a claim on your estate by application to the court within six months of your death. However, certain criteria must be satisfied and such claims may compete with other ones on your estate. Furthermore, the level of benefit your partner will receive is uncertain, and they will not do any better than a spouse or civil partner would have done. The only way for you to ensure that they are provided for on your death is to prepare a Will.
Preparing a Will allows you to ensure that your property passes where you intend it to, although any survivorship destination that is in place will override this. However, as already noted a survivorship destination can easily be removed if both parties are in agreement.
By putting a Will in place, you can ensure that your property will pass as you intend it to. Preparing a Will doesn’t need to be a complicated exercise and a simple Will may all that you require to ensure your property passes to the right person or people.
Whatever your family circumstances, the best advice is to get your affairs in order and plan ahead for the future, whatever life may throw at you. What you need may actually be quite simple and you will give you the peace of mind of knowing that your wishes, and your family's future, are protected.