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A long marriage does not entitle a spouse to an interest in a property automatically, rules High Court

In overturning a decision to award a 50 per cent beneficial interest in a property to a spouse following the bankruptcy of her partner, the High Court has ruled that a long marriage does not imply a common intention to share a beneficial interest in a property.

In certain circumstances, a court can hold that a common intention constructive trust has been created by virtue of the common intention of the parties involved to share an interest in the property, if that that property is registered in only one of their names. The person concerned must also have acted to their own detriment in relying on this intention.

In this case, following the bankruptcy of M, who owned the property in question with the title deeds registered in his sole name, one of the trustees of the bankruptcy attempted to seek possession of the property. However, M’s wife, R, claimed that she had a beneficial interest in the property as a consequence of a common intention constructive trust.

The original judgement held that R did indeed have a 50 per cent beneficial interest in the property, ordering the property to be sold with vacant possession. The trustee subsequently appealed, resulting in case being heard at the High Court.

The High Court ruled that a long marriage was not the type of exceptional circumstance that could infer that there was an intention to share the beneficial interest in a property, primarily because it said nothing about how they owned their assets.

The distinction between a property being jointly-owned and a property being purchased as a joint home was key, with the court finding that R had no agreement to share the property, and there was not sufficient evidence to infer how the property would be shared.

The court found that the factors, in this case, fell short of being the type of facts that could result in an agreement being inferred, and as a result, the original decision to award 50 per cent beneficial interest in the property to R was overturned.

If you require advice on beneficial interests in property, contact our expert team at Mander Hadley today.

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Adrian Austin-Crowe

Adrian Austin-Crowe

Head of Dispute Resolution / Personal Injury
After obtaining my degree in 1977 and being admitted as a solicitor in 1980, I worked in the Midlands and Thames Valley before joining Mander Hadley in 2005 to lead the Dispute Resolution Department.

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