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Friday, September 25, 2020

I added my wife to the title of a property I paid for. Can I remove her name from the title?

Today I want to talk about a topic that is raised in a question asked by a reader. It's something I've talked about before and will no doubt talk about again. That is, when you add a name to a title, you have given legal ownership rights to that person. Here is the reader's (abridged) question and my reply.

I bought a house and put my wife's name as joint ownership. I am paying the mortgage since then and she has not payed a single mortgage. She is working since last 8 years with very good pay. She told me the other day I should leave the house and move out. I take care of all the expenses I mean literally all at home including our child university expense, property, taxes, gas, hydro, groceries etc.. The only expense she pays is her car fuel expense, her clothing. I now worry that she will take my hard earned house away from me. There is 8 years of mortgage left. I want to remove her from the property title. 

The basic problem here is that you are referring to the house as "your" house when you and your wife both own it. In terms of legal ownership, her rights are the same as yours. Unfortunately, you cannot simply "remove her from the property title" because she is an owner just like you.

Here is the basic message: if you add a name to a title, you are giving that person legal rights. You can no longer behave as if the property is only yours, because it isn't. This is the case whether the person you add is a spouse, one of your kids, or someone else. Who has paid for what does not show up on a title deed.

This doesn't mean that the amounts you have paid for the mortgage and other expenses are not relevant. Though they don't affect the title itself, they may be relevant to a division of assets, if it comes to that. I mention this because you said she wants you to move out, which sounds as if your relationship may be coming to an end.  If that is the case, the two of you will have to negotiate the division of your home and finances. 

It's possible that you could lose the house in that negotiation. It's also possible that your wife will agree to have her name taken off the title in exchange for other assets.

I'm not prepared to speculate as to who would "win" the house in your case, but ideally you and she will try to come to an agreement that is fair. In my mind, you paying all of the expenses for all of those years should be considered when agreeing on what is fair. In law, we have a concept called unjust enrichment, in which one party unfairly benefits from the efforts or payments of another. The existence of this concept gives you a basis to look for fairness in a division of assets.

There are other factors that might come into play, but they are related to family law and I'm not going to address them here. Your question was about removing your wife from the title, I think you can see now that you can't do that without her consent, which may not be easy to get.

1 comment:

  1. 'I bought a house and put my wife's name as joint ownership.' [...]

    That sounds like something many people would do. However, things have changed. I believe that  this reader needs to talk to a skilled and 'honest'  lawyer re this matter. Marriage counselling?

    Other readers might find this of interest re my ongoing Estate Matter. I am the Executor of our parents Estate.  There are 2 beneficiaries. A previous 'lawyer' suggested that I should  put the home in both our names. One  beneficiary is living in the Estate home and is not paying Occupancy Rent. That very skilled lawyer is  obviously not working for me. But then again, what about the other lawyers and the Court? Somewhere in Ontario. TBC


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