A dishonest solicitor (it happens) was convicted of appropriating client funds. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison.
Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 confiscation orders can be made to recoup financial losses.
In this case, the solicitor and his wife were married in 1988. She had provided the substantial amount of the money to purchase their joint home- about 75% of the purchase price. The court was asked to determine the legal and beneficial interests of the solicitor and his wife for the purposes of assessing what assets were available for the confiscation order. The wife obviously felt that the confiscation order should attach to substantially less than half the equity.
The court held that, in the ordinary domestic situation, a conveyance of a matrimonial home into joint names indicated both a legal and beneficial “joint tenancy” unless the contrary was proved. In this case the court found that none of the factors which might prove the contrary indication was established. The consequence of this was that 50% of the equity in the property was available to be taken in satisfaction of the confiscation order.
The moral of the story is (a) don’t marry a dishonest solicitor and (b) if you are worried about protecting your contributions towards a property, you should ask the (honest) solicitor acting in your purchase to advise you on the merits of owning the property in defined shares. We will always give that advice in the case of an unmarried couple but there are other situations where it could make good sense to keep shares distinct.
R v Taylor (unreported) is the case in question.
If you would like advice on any matter relating to protecting your property or resolving a dispute, please call us on 01865 244661.