Who owns assets purchased in a partner’s name has recently been considered Higashida v Sarto (2014) NSWSC 1291 in that case the Plaintiff, Mr Higashida and the Defendant Ms Sarto had been in relationship from about 2010 to the end of 2013. The Plaintiff had separated from his wife but not yet resolved family law proceedings.
During the course of the relationship the Plaintiff purchased a Toyota Prius for about $27,000 and a Silverton boat for around $172,000. Both items were purchased entirely with the Plaintiff’s money but registered in the Defendant’s name. There was a dispute as to what was said at the time of purchase/registration. The Plaintiff says that in both cases he had a conversation with the Defendant to the effect that he wanted to put the car/boat in the Defendant’s name so his wife would not find out and become upset. The Defendant’s versions in both cases were along the lines that the Plaintiff wanted to give her the car and the boat.
In cases where property is purchased by one person/entity entirely and put in another person/entities name there is a general presumption that a “resulting trust” arises. That is the person in whose name the property is held is holding the property for the other person on trust. The presumption that it is being held on trust is rebuttable that means if the Defendant was able to convince the Court that the Prius and the boat were being bought by the Plaintiff for her, the presumption would be overcome and therefore she would be the owner of both.
Unfortunately for the Defendant the Court found that the Plaintiff did not intend to give the car to her so the Plaintiff was held to be the owner of both.