The death of a joint tenant adds an extra step to a property settlement.

How the death of a Joint Tenant affects settlement

When a Joint Tenant has passed away, the sale of their property by the remaining tenant may require an extra-long settlement period if the death certificate is not readily available.

As a settlement agent, we need to obtain and certify a death certificate if the Certificate of Title is held by joint tenants but one of the owners has passed away, before lodging a Transfer of Land.

Fortunately, this is a simple process if the seller already has the death certificate. It’s also fairly simple if they’ve lost the certificate and the deceased died in Western Australia, as a new certificate can be obtained quickly with a trip to the Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the Perth CBD.

If however, the deceased died interstate or overseas and the seller has lost the death certificate, obtaining a new certificate can be time-consuming. If the deceased died in another state, the Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages will take five working days to process the application for a new certificate. Counting postage time, it may be two weeks before the client obtains the death certificate.

It’s likely to take even longer to obtain a death certificate from another country – perhaps up to a month, depending on the country and its postal service.

If not enough time is allowed to obtain the certificate, it could lead to a delay in settlement, potentially causing the seller to incur penalty interest.

To avoid a delay like this, sellers in this situation should ensure they have the death certificate readily available. If not, and the deceased did not die in WA, consider extending the settlement period to avoid the unnecessary stress of a delayed settlement.

Image by iAudioguide via Flickr.