Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I have been in a relationship for the past six years — married for one year. The union has produced a child who is now three. Before meeting me, my husband was in a relationship for 11 years which produced two children. In 2008 he purchased a house through the NHT, and he named the mother of the children as beneficiary.
They split up in 2011 and divided most of the assets acquired during their relationship. Recently my husband went to have her name removed as beneficiary because she didn't contribute to the purchasing of the house, but he was told that she would have to agree to the removal, or we would have to get a lawyer involved. Should he pass away, what would I be entitled to as his wife?
Your letter speaks about your husband purchasing a house through the NHT in 2008 and that he named the mother of his children as “beneficiary”. I am not sure what you mean by this. You see, a beneficiary is generally someone who will inherit some property or interest in property on the death of the owner. This can come about by the owner making a gift of the property or interest in property to a person named as the beneficiary of it in his or her last will and testament. Or, a person can be a beneficiary of an intestate property or part of it according to law. This is the Intestates Estates and Property Charges Act, under which a surviving wife and children can inherit the deceased husband's and father's estate, in the proportions stated in the Act.
However, I deduce that you mean by the use of the word “beneficiary” that your husband had put his former love interest's name on the title of the property. You say that when they split up in 2011, they divided the assets they had acquired during their relationship. They clearly did nothing about the property which still has her name on the title.
The reason for the advice he received to seek counsel is that an application would have to be made to the court for a declaration of interest (s) in the property, that is to say, that your husband is the sole beneficial and legal owner of the premises.
You did not state how their names appear on the title — whether it says they are joint proprietors or tenants-in-common. If they are joint owners, then on the death of your husband, you would get nothing from the property. You see, the law says that on the death of one joint owner, the property by operation of law passes to the survivor. So in such a case, you would get nothing from this property.
If, however, they are on the title as tenants-in-common, then on his death, his one-half share will go to his estate and you can have your share if he left no will, according to the Act I referred to above.
It is really best for your husband to retain a lawyer so that if the lady refuses to sign with your husband a transfer of the property to his sole name or into your joint names, the lawyer can prepare the application to the court as I mentioned above and act for him in the cause of the proceedings. In this way, he can rectify the ownership of the property, so that he can be free to do whatever he wishes with it.
I trust that I have clarified the matter for you and your husband, so that he can move forward with the removal of her name from his title.
I wish you all the best.
Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.