Murder and Joint Tenancy

Last week, we talked about the importance of choosing the right tenancy when two purchasers write up an Offer together. But which tenancy is best if you’re planning to murder the other party?

This may seem like an odd question (although one would assume the answer to be ‘a joint tenancy’), but in studying for my Diploma of Financial Services (Conveyancing) I found out that the law has the issue covered:

“Where one joint tenant murders the other the joint tenancy is severed and replaced by a tenancy in common in equal shares.”

So while normally the surviving joint tenant is automatically entitled to the property, at law a person cannot profit from an illegal act. As such, if one joint tenant murders the other, the tenancy is automatically converted to a tenancy in common.

Furthermore, while the victim’s share of the property will go as per their will, the murderer’s share is transferred to public trustees. This makes sense, as it prevents the murderer from benefiting from their crime.

The moral of the story? If you’re a criminal looking to profit from your partner’s murder, don’t even bother! For the rest of us, this is a thought-provoking tidbit to bring up at real estate functions for a bit of a chuckle.