Severing Joint Ownership of Property – Quigley v Masterson [2011] 2529 (Ch)

9 December, 2011
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

The High Court pronounced on the case of Quigley v Masterson which concerned whether the deceased Edward Pilkington and his co – habitant owned their home as joint tenants or tenants in common. On the evidence the joint tenancy was severed by one of the owners and notice of severance was given to the executor of the other owner.

P and his co-habitant M bought the property in dispute in 1978. They remained there until 2001 when they split up. They owned it as joint tenants in law and equity and no form A restriction was on the register.

After the break-up P, who was then 75, instructed solicitors to sever the joint tenancy by written notice. This notice apparently never reached M.

In the next few years P’s health and capacity declined. He went into a care home. Mrs Quigley, P’s daughter, and M both applied to the Court of Protection to be appointed deputy for P’s financial affairs with the power to sell the house. The court ordered in 2009 that Mrs Quigley should be made deputy, except that M should retain power to sell the house.

P died shortly thereafter. The question arose as to how the net proceeds of sale should be distributed. Mrs Quigley, his PR, maintained the joint tenancy had been severed by mutual conduct if not written notice. M challenged this.

Ultimately the High Court disagreed with Mrs Quigley that the tenancy had been severed by mutual conduct. They did however invent a new ground that Mrs Masterson had herself severed the joint tenancy when she applied, during P’s lifetime, to the Court of Protection for permission to sell the house and split the proceeds.

The court therefore ruled in favour of Mrs Quigley and granted her permission to treat the property as held as tenants in common.

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