Sydney Mitchell LLP
For most people, their homes are their single biggest asset and that is one reason why it is always wise to have an independent solicitor present to witness signatures on property transactions.
In one case in which that did not happen, a middle aged man’s sudden death triggered a bitter property dispute between his son and the ex-wife that he had not set eyes on for almost 20 years.
Following the man’s death, aged 55, he left his home to his son. However, soon afterwards, his ex-wife stepped forward and insisted that the house was hers. She had lost touch with him after moving abroad following their divorce.
However, she said that she had paid the £8,000 deposit on the property when they bought it together in the 1980s.
She claimed that she had picked out the house with her mother and had viewed it as a nest-egg for her future.
The property had been held jointly by the couple until, the year after their separation, it was transferred into his sole name.
Before the First-tier Tribunal (FTT), however, she argued that her signature on the transfer was a forgery.
As a joint tenant of the property, she claimed that it had passed to her in its entirety on her ex-husband’s death and thus did not form part of his estate.
After considering evidence from two handwriting experts, the FTT rejected the ex-wife’s forgery allegation.
It noted that she had shown no interest in the house for 18 years and appeared to have comprehensively washed her hands of it.
By agreeing to the transfer, she had walked free from the property and escaped the burden of the mortgage.
The ruling opened the way for the son to inherit the property.
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