Trust deeds setting out the agreement of joint ownership of property are worth much more than the paper they are written on.
I would be a rich man if I had a pound for every time I heard: “I thought that she/he was not that kind of person and would never…”
The setting of the conversation is almost always identical. I am meeting a client for the first or second time and they have received a letter from their ex-partner’s solicitor that says they have a claim for half of the property. They jointly own even though they made vastly unequal contributions to the purchase price. I patiently listen to my new client explain how the purchase was in joint names only to combine incomes for the mortgage provider but that it was obvious that the ownership of the property was according to who paid for it – isn’t it?
The panic really starts to set in when I then explain that it is not that easy, the property is owned according to the intentions of the parties at the time of purchase.At this point my new client usually shows me their confused face. I ask the client if there was some sort of written agreement that shows how the property was owned, such as a trust deed. If the client says ‘no’ I take a deep breath and say that there is a presumption that you own the property equally despite the contributions. As if scripted, my client then says: “I thought that she/he was not that kind of person and would never claim ownership over something they had not paid for.”Sometimes there is some swearing after this. Unsurprisingly, there is no trust deed which allows for the fact my client contributed the bigger share.
Without an agreement of how a property is owned, ideally in the form of a trust deed, the courts embark on a very difficult exercise of analysing the parties’ intentions when they purchased the property. The parties are forced to go to court at high cost and high risk to settle the matter. Dealing with this issue at the outset and reaching agreement is a much better option. If you have any further questions want some expert and practical advice about your situation, please contact me, Randal Buckley on 020 8899 6620 or firstname.lastname@example.org