MARIAN & ED, ADELE & SEAN
By Tammy McLeod
Marian and Ed were delighted when their eldest daughter, Adele, returned from a rather extended OE. Adele had gone to London on a two-year work visa a decade earlier, but met and fell in love with an Irishman living in London and had ended up staying for ten years. She came home not just with her now husband, Sean, but two small children. Marian and Ed were ever hopeful that Adele and Sean would settle on the North Shore, but the cost of property had increased so dramatically that it was really going to be a struggle for Adele and Sean to buy a house on the Shore.
Marian and Ed had done very well for themselves. They had started a small boutique wine shop many years ago which had developed into a small chain of wine shops which they still owned. They had set up a family trust some years ago and now, as well as owning their family home and the shares in the business, the trust had a tidy sum of cash in it too. As the wine shop chain was providing a great income to Marian and Ed they decided that the trust could use the cash the purchase a home for Adele and Sean to live in with their children. They didn’t need the income that the cash was providing and it was a small price to pay to have Adele close and of course, those lovely grandchildren nearby.
Marian and Ed went to see their independent trustee who was their lawyer. He approved of their plans and they told Adele and Sean the good news and went house hunting. They were fortunate to buy a small, but run-down cottage in a nearby street. Sean was something of a handyman and was confident he could turn the cottage into their dream home.
And it was a dream for about two years, until Sean got in touch with his childhood sweetheart back in Dublin, decided New Zealand wasn’t the place for him and went back to Dublin, breaking Adele’s heart. To add insult to injury Marian and Ed received a letter from a lawyer he had appointed before he left, saying that the cottage was rightfully half his because even though it was in Marian and Ed’s trust, he was a beneficiary of the trust and that he had completed all the hard work on the renovation creating much of its increased value. He also claimed that while it was in Marian and Ed’s trust, they had always said the property was his and Adele’s and so their trust was really just holding in on “constructive trust” for Adele and Sean. Marian and Ed called their lawyer straight away in hope that their trust would be robust enough to stand up to this challenge.