Question: I have a Declaration of Trust with my partner for the property we share. As one party put in a £60,000 deposit, which is documented in the declaration, what happens if we marry and subsequently split up? Does the declaration become void?
© Malcolm Willett (www.willett-ink.co.uk)
Answer: A Declaration of Trust is conclusive in establishing the shares in which you and your partner own the property. It is the easiest, cheapest and best way to sort out joint property ownership — you tackle the issue when your relationship is happy and there is a good chance of reaching agreement.
If you don't have a Declaration of Trust and later get into a dispute about your shares in the property, it can be difficult, expensive and unpredictable to sort out — and the law now presumes ownership on an equal basis in the absence of strong evidence to the contrary.
However, if you then marry and later there is a divorce, the position changes significantly. It doesn't matter who owns what, or in what shares.
The law won't really be interested in the terms of the declaration because it is concerned with what is fair in all the circumstances, with the welfare of any children the first consideration. It can redistribute property and money. So even if the property is in the sole name of the party who paid the £60,000, it might still be fair to transfer the property to the other party.
In a different situation, the deposit might count for a lot. It depends on all the circumstances. The conclusion is that marriage has a fundamental impact on your legal and financial status.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email firstname.lastname@example.org. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.
Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors www.ttuk.com.