All the More Reason to Put a Ring On It

August 3, 2010 Hull & Hull LLP Joint Accounts, Litigation Tags: , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

A Nova Scotia judge recently ruled that a lottery prize was not assumed to be mutual asset to be divided upon the breakdown of a common-law relationship.

The National Post recently reported on a man and a woman who had been living together for a number of years and had won $50,000 on a scratch-and-win ticket. The ticket had been purchased by the man. Notwithstanding the fact that the couple had previously shared winnings, the winnings were deposited into a joint account, and part of the winnings were used for a down payment on a property that they both owned, the court found that there was no prior agreement to share the winnings.

(In another recent Ontario case, the judge found that in absence of cogent evidence of a clear intent to share winnings, there will be no requirement to share.)

Had the couple been married, there would have been a presumption that the lottery winnings were joint.

In Ontario, s. 14 of the Family Law Act creates a presumption that in the case of married spouses, the fact that property is held in the names of spouses as joint tenants is proof, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that the spouses intended to own the property as joint tenants, and money on deposit in the name of both spouses shall be deemed to be in the name of the spouses as joint tenants. The provision does not apply to common-law spouses.

What are the possible lessons from this?

  1. If you are buying lottery tickets with someone else, be they a friend or unmarried spouse, have some agreement in place to share the winnings.
  2. As Beyonce says, if you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it.

Thank you for reading.

Paul E. Trudelle – Click here for more information on Paul Trudelle.

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