Question: My husband died five years ago leaving me with a mortgage-free property. I have recently met someone else and we are thinking about living together. My friends tell me to get something in writing before he moves in or I might lose my house if things don't work out. What do I need to do?
Answer: If you do not get married and the house stays in your name you shouldn't need to do anything. However, problems can arise when couples transfer a property into their joint names, for instance, if they take on a joint mortgage to fund improvements, or if they buy property together.
In such circumstances a solicitor should always ask how the equity is intended to be shared but often couples will tick a box on the transfer form without understanding it. A declaration of trust deed could save an expensive argument later and can be prepared at little cost.
Sometimes a legal interest in property can arise if significant sums of money are spent on improvements, so make sure you discuss matters properly and consider seeking legal advice before undertaking any major works. Again a declaration of trust deed could be used to clarify the situation and to confirm your intentions.
Finally, marriage changes everything. If marriage is on the cards a pre-nuptial agreement is worth considering. While matrimonial courts can still override them, they do tend to influence the outcomes of divorce settlements. Obtain specialist legal advice to ensure the interests of both you and your partner are protected.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email email@example.com. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.
Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP (www.thrings.com).
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.