Consumer Rights: 'Should my new husband be on our home's deeds?'
It's not romantic, but it is worth sorting out now who owns what – it will benefit both spouses
Sunday 12 August 2012
Q: I've recently remarried and we're buying our first property together with the money from the sale of my marital home and I don't know what to do about shares.
Do I buy it in my name so I know it's mine if we split up, or in joint names as a sign of commitment? If I do that will my husband automatically own half?
It's not that I think we'll split up but I have been a bit bruised by the divorce. I don't want to risk losing out again, especially as everything I've worked for will be in the property and my new husband isn't able to make any financial contribution.
The thought of discussing all this with him seems too clinical and not very romantic.
A: Forget romance, you need legal advice. You have to consider not only what happens if you split but what happens if you die before your husband.
You could buy the place in your name only; you could buy it jointly or you could buy it as tenants in common. Buying the place in your name alone does not mean your husband could never claim a share of it. Years down the line a court might decide he was entitled to a share on divorce, and he would be entitled to a large proportion of your estate if you died without making a will.
If you buy the house jointly you both in effect own all of it. To be clear about who gets what share if you split up, you need to have a legal agreement drawn up to that effect. If one dies the other automatically becomes the sole owner.
You could buy as tenants in common so that each owns a defined share and each can sell that share or leave it to whoever they like – but that in itself can cause all sorts of complications.
Your husband may be putting nothing into the purchase now, but if he does put money in, particularly into the structure and fabric of the building, in five or 10 years' time it may be only fair that he owns a bigger share. If you split up and a court is asked to decide how much each party should get, it will take all that into consideration.
There is also the question of what you want to happen to your home if you die before your husband. Do you intend him to have the whole property or only "his share" of it? If you buy it in your sole name then you need to make a will straight away setting out who gets what. If you leave chunks of your estate to other people, and your home is your biggest asset, your husband may have to sell it to pay those legacies.
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