Updated: December 17, 2021

What Happens if One Person Dies On a Joint Mortgage?

Our in-depth guide will talk you through what happens if one person dies on a joint mortgage, and all of your possible options as you plan for the future.

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Pete Mugleston

Author: Pete Mugleston - Mortgage Expert

Updated: December 17, 2021

Losing a loved one is difficult enough without the financial worries that can follow. The safety of your home is often the biggest challenge you’ll face with uncertainty surrounding what may or may not happen with your mortgage.

By following this guide you’ll have a better understanding of what happens to a joint mortgage when someone dies, the steps you need to take and where you can look for help and guidance.

What happens to a joint mortgage when someone dies?

If the person you share your mortgage with has passed away, it’s important to let your lender know as soon as possible. They will have clear procedures in place and will be understanding if you’re struggling with the circumstances.

You will need to show your mortgage lender a death certificate, which can be taken into a branch or sent to them by post. They will advise you of how quickly they need this when you initially contact them.

Why the mortgage type is important

It’s important to note that there are two types of joint mortgage – beneficial joint tenants and tenants in common. Which one you have will impact what happens if your mortgage partner (we’ll refer to this as ‘partner’ going forward, though this could mean the friend, relative or other person who co-signed your mortgage) has passed away.

Joint tenancy:
Tenants in common:

With a joint tenancy, both partners jointly own the entire property. This means that the surviving partner will inherit the property outright, along with any mortgage debt associated with it.

With tenants in common, each person owns a specified share. This means that the deceased person’s share will be given to someone in their will, if they’ve left one. It’s often left to the surviving partner, but sometimes given to someone else entirely, depending upon the terms in their will. It’s far more complicated if your partner hasn’t left a will and different rules then apply.

The key question that pretty much every surviving partner will have is – what now happens with the outstanding mortgage debt?

At times like these, it can be beneficial speaking with an experienced mortgage broker. They’ll understand what the process is in the event of a joint mortgage holder’s death and be able to offer the right guidance.

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Is the mortgage debt automatically cleared?

No, not necessarily. In most cases, you and your partner will have a life policy or other type of insurance that can be used to clear the outstanding mortgage. This will leave you with no debt and a property that you now fully own by yourself.

If you’re the beneficiary of part of your partner’s estate, you may also be able to use other assets your partner might have owned to clear the debt, or any employee benefits they may have been entitled to, such as death in service.

Otherwise, you’ll be responsible for keeping up the monthly repayments on your mortgage.

This can be difficult for a single party, especially when dealing with funeral costs or if they’re faced with paying off a spouse’s unsecured debts too, like bank loans or credit cards.

What happens if you can’t afford to pay?

If you’re unable to cover your mortgage debt, don’t worry. There’s a few options that could be available to you, such as:

Payment holiday

If you’re struggling with repayments in the short term, your mortgage lender may agree to a payment holiday. This puts a hold on mortgage repayments until you’ve decided what to do with the property.

Of course, interest on your mortgage will continue to increase during this time so this shouldn’t be viewed as a long term solution.

Increasing your mortgage term extension

When you take out a mortgage, you usually agree to pay it back over a fixed term of 20, 25 or 35 years. You’re allowed to extend your mortgage term as long as you won’t still be paying it off when you retire (although some lenders can still accept this, if your retirement income can cover the repayments). This will make the monthly repayments smaller. Keep in mind that an increase in the term means you’ll pay more interest overall.

Switching to an interest only mortgage.

While a repayment mortgage helps you pay off the full value of the property in increments, an interest-only mortgage is slightly different. You just pay the interest while you save up to pay off the price of the property once your mortgage term is up, or sell it on.

Switching to an interest only mortgage will reduce your monthly payments, which could be useful, but will also mean you need to find an alternative method for repaying the capital amount when the mortgage term ends.

Remortgaging your property

People remortgage quite often. It just means swapping to a new deal with your current lender or taking out a new mortgage with another lender altogether. It can help you get a better deal and make your repayments more affordable.

You might be able to do this for a number of reasons:

Low loan-to-value ratio (LTV)
Property value

The percentage of the property that you’ve actually paid off (compared to the amount that you still owe the bank) is called your loan-to-value ratio. The more of your mortgage you’ve paid off, the better deals you can access.

If your property has gone up in value, you technically own more of the property (or have more equity in it). This will also mean that your LTV will be lower and more lenders will be prepared to consider your remortgaging application

How a broker can help you

Losing a partner can be a traumatic time, and financial uncertainty only adds to this. If you’re worried about being able to afford your mortgage repayments by yourself, speaking to an experienced mortgage broker should be able to make you feel more at ease.

They’ll guide you through all of the options now available to you and help you reach a decision with your best interests in mind.  Our advisor-matching service can quickly assess your needs and pair you with a broker who has the right expertise in this area.

Give us a call on 0808 189 0463 or make an enquiry and we will arrange for an advisor we work with to contact you straight away for a free, no obligation chat.

Ask a quick question

We know everyone's circumstances are different, that's why we work with mortgage brokers who are experts in all different mortgage subjects. Ask us a question and we'll get the best expert to help.

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Pete Mugleston

Pete Mugleston

Mortgage Expert

About the author

Pete, an expert in all things mortgages, cut his teeth right in the middle of the credit crunch. With plenty of people needing help and few mortgage providers lending, Pete found great success in going the extra mile to find mortgages for people whom many others considered lost causes. The experience he gained, coupled with his love of helping people reach their goals, led him to establish Online Mortgage Advisor, with one clear vision – to help as many customers as possible get the right advice, regardless of need or background.

Pete’s presence in the industry as the ‘go-to’ for specialist finance continues to grow, and he is regularly cited in and writes for both local and national press, as well as trade publications, with a regular column in Mortgage Introducer and being the exclusive mortgage expert for LOVEMoney. Pete also writes for OMA of course!

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FCA Disclaimer

*Based on our research, the content contained in this article is accurate as of the most recent time of writing. Lender criteria and policies change regularly so speak to one of the advisors we work with to confirm the most accurate up to date information. The information on the site is not tailored advice to each individual reader, and as such does not constitute financial advice. All advisors working with us are fully qualified to provide mortgage advice and work only for firms that are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. They will offer any advice specific to you and your needs.

Some types of buy to let mortgages are not regulated by the FCA. Think carefully before securing other debts against your home. As a mortgage is secured against your home, it may be repossessed if you do not keep up with repayments on your mortgage. Equity released from your home will also be secured against it.

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