When it comes to property ownerships and relationships (and, more specifically, break ups) things can get sticky. Alex Barendregt shares ideas on how to avoid this potential minefield.
Most people don’t realise that as soon as they step into a relationship everything increasingly becomes vague and grey in regards to who owns what.
These relationships aren’t just limited to marriage. It can involve both the tangible and intangible property parties have brought and bought into the relationship. It includes savings, investment, furniture, the family home and more.
Lately in the Velocity office, we have had a cold southerly of relationship-break-up cases blow through the door. Sometimes we only get brought on board when it is well and truly too late to make changes. The property has been split up in conjunction with the lawyers and we are just there to re-finance one of the partners out of the family home (if possible).
Typically, people come out of this nasty process with a sigh of relief. But they also come out with this nagging thought: “If only I had set things up right from the start we could have saved ourselves all this stress and financial loss.”
Oh, the joys of hindsight.
Our goal is to advise clients prior to any of these potential issues. This occurs in combination with their solicitor and/or their accountant, who will, in turn, advise on a structure that could work well for them and their family. This may include setting up a family trust or to draft up a property agreement. Although it takes a little paper work, it’s always easier to avoid the mess in the first place than to untangle the mess once things turn sour.
Here are a few common misconceptions we hear on the topic of relationships and property:
· “I own the house, not the trust.”
· “My partner is not on the title so he/she can’t get half.”
· “I don’t need a will, everything is in my name anyway.”
· “I moved all my assets to a trust, in case we split up.”
· “The max my partner could get is half of it.”
· “Putting investment debt against my owner-occupied house is better for tax reasons.”
· “We have only been together for 3.5 years, surely he/she can’t have any entitlements to my stuff, I worked for it whilst he/she sat at home.”
Although there could be some partial truth to these examples, they all represent an extremely grey area. And as complex as it might seem from the outset, if you have made any of the above assumptions, you should definitively consider invaluable advise from a lawyer or accountant. A small invoice now could save you half of your property in a couple of years’ time.
If this article makes you wonder if your trust is administered correctly or if you need a property agreement, have a chat to your professional. If you don’t have one, feel free to give me a ring as we can connect you with a wide variety of solicitors and accountants who could cater for your needs.
Alex Barendregt is a Registered Financial Adviser with Velocity Financial. No investment decision should be taken based on the information in this blog alone. A disclosure statement is available free of charge upon request.
As it can be complex, people needing advice on this area of law should always consult a lawyer. The information in this article is not intended to make any legal or tax decisions on these maters and the article is generic by nature. For personalised advice seek out your legal professional.
To the best of Velocity Financials knowledge, all information in this guide is true and accurate but should only be used as a reference. Over and above, Velocity Financial assumes no liability for any losses suffered by any person relying directly or indirectly on information in this article, as it is publicly available information on the Property pamphlet of the Law Society NZ. It is recommended that readers consult a lawyer and/or accountant before acting on this information.