Transfer ownership of property to wife or spouse in wedding outfit in front of house
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Transfer ownership of house to wife or spouse

04/08/2023
(Last Updated: 20/02/2024)
15,899
9 min read
Key Takeaways

Many of our clients come to us with the same question: How do I add my wife to the deed of my house? . Below, we run through how to transfer ownership to your spouse for tax purposes or to simply add their name onto the legal title, including:
Before progressing with this, it is important to understand the difference between the legal owner of a property and who benefits from the property; such as property income or the right of use.
  • Legal owner - the legal owner/s are registered at the Land Registry on the title deeds. You can have a maximum of 4 legal owners registered on the title and they have control over when the property is sold or transferred. Legal owners are also known as nominees or registered owners.
  • Beneficial interest - this is "an interest in the economic benefit of property". Your beneficial ownership in property reflects your share of any gain/loss from the property, including rent and profit/loss on sale. You do not have to be a legal owner to be a beneficial owner. Many married couples share the beneficial interest with their partner, but don't share the legal title because if their intention is to share property income in a tax efficient way, then there is no need to change the legal ownership.


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Transfer of Property in Unequal Shares - Beware of Form 17

When looking to share income from property in unequal shares (such as rental income or capital increases), then it is the beneficial interest that has to be shared, not the legal ownership. The legal ownership is registered on the title deeds at the Land Registry and doesn't confirm who has a beneficial interest in property (although the HMRC will assume the beneficial interest is shared equally between the legal owners unless there is a deed of trust confirming otherwise). This is covered under the HMRC rules of Form 17 for married couples who jointly own the legal title, but share the income from property in unequal shares.


How do I add my wife to the deed of my house?

How to transfer ownership of property to your wife: There are many ways to transfer property to your wife/husband so they can get a share of the beneficial ownership. The process depends on whether:

    1
    Property is in the sole name of one of the married couple
    2
    Property is in joint names
    3
    Property hasn't been bought yet


    1
    Property in sole name
If you already own the property and it is in your sole name, then these are a few options to consider in order to transfer the beneficial interest to your wife/spouse.

Transfer of Equity
In this scenario the intention is to add the wife/husband to the deeds of the property as joint legal owners and to share the beneficial interest in unequal shares. In most cases, the partner is transferred onto the legal title for zero consideration (no additional money changing hands) and at the end of the transfer you jointly own the legal and beneficial interest. Here are some other points to be considered:

  • Stamp Duty Land Tax - Click to read what stamp duty land tax is payable on a transfer.
  • Deed of Trust - when sharing income from property in unequal shares, you are required to complete a Form 17 to HMRC and provide a deed of trust conforming the beneficial interest split between the joint owners. If you fail to do this, HMRC presumes that income from property is shared equally between the joint owners.
  • Mortgage Lender Consent - most mortgage lenders won't allow you to transfer beneficial interest to someone not a party to the mortgage. In these cases you should look to assign the beneficial interest by using a deed of assignment instead.


What is form 17?
There is an automatic assumption that for properties held jointly between husband and wife, the beneficial interest is held equally unless stated otherwise using a Form 17 declaration. HMRC states:

"If you live together with your spouse or civil partner, we normally treat income from property held in your joint names as if it belonged to you in equal shares and tax each of you on half of the income, regardless of actual ownership. Please complete this form if you want to be taxed on your actual shares (known as `actual basis'). You will also need to provide evidence that your beneficial interests in the property are unequal, for example a declaration or deed "

Download the HMRC's Form 17 by clicking here


Deed of Trust or Deed of Assignment
You can assign beneficial interest to your spouse using a deed of trust or a deed of assignment. A deed of trust will have clauses to include how the property is managed, lived in and possibly sold, however a deed of assignment simply assigns the beneficial interest from one party to the other. Both are deeds and both can be used to assign a benefit in land to your spouse.

HMRC Guidance note states:

"For the starting point in TSEM9160 not to apply there must be a separation of income from property, by way of a valid declaration or deed of trust.

For example, in an interest in possession trust (TSEM1105), the trustees own the trust property, but they are not entitled to the income arising from the property - the beneficiary is. By way of a valid deed, the settlor has specifically given the income from the property to the beneficiary. So the presumption that income follows property does not apply in this instance."

As we see from the HMRC guidance note, the legal owner can use a deed of trust to share the beneficial interest in the property (the right to rental income and capital gain) to their spouse or partner. The points to consider are:

  • Stamp duty land tax - If you marry, enter into a civil partnership or set up home together, HMRC states: "You might pay SDLT when you transfer a share in a property to a husband, wife or partner when you do one of the following: marry, enter into a civil partnership, move in together". We explain stamp duty for transfer between marital couples in our article here - transfer of property to your wife attracts stamp duty.
  • Beneficial owner has no legal owner rights - unless written into the deed of trust, the beneficial owner has no legal right to force the sale of the property, so they can receive their beneficial interest from a potential capital gain via sale.
  • Deed needs to be registered - a deed of trust needs to be registered with a Form B restriction placed over the title deeds at the Land Registry, to protect the non-legal owner from the property being sold without their knowledge.


    2
    Property owned jointly
If you already own the property jointly, then these are a few options to consider in order to transfer the beneficial interest to your wife/husband.

Deed of Trust
Much like in the example above, a deed of trust can be used to declare an unequal beneficial interest between the joint owners. Other than the ones raised above, an additional point to consider is if you currently own the property as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common. If you own the property as joint tenants, then you'll need to change the ownership to tenants in common before you can register the deed of trust. You cannot own a property as joint tenants and have a deed of trust.

    3
    Not purchased property yet
If you have yet to purchase the property, then you can choose to buy the property as tenants in common and draft a deed of trust to reflect unequal shares in the property.

Do you need help transferring the ownership of property to your partner?

Our panel of solicitors specialise in this area and can support you execute the legal service for any of the following:
  • Drafting of deed of trust
  • Registering deed of trust at Land Registry
  • Transfer of equity


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Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands-on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Reviewed by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.


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