Changes in property ownership can have unexpected and wide-ranging consequences in family law

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Whenever a change of ownership is considered, all parties to the transaction should make their intentions and goals clear.Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

If you are granted right of survivorship on a property, does that constitute a gift? And if so, when does the gifting take place — at the time the right is established, or after the joint owner’s death?

Those were some of the questions raised in a recent family law case in British Columbia, in which a couple, the Barylas, decided to part ways after nearly forty years of marriage.

Prior to their separation, their relationship was, by all accounts, a good one. The Barylas raised two children, became grandparents to four grandchildren, and owned a successful family business that afforded them a rather grand lifestyle in Vernon, B.C. The business ultimately allowed the couple to retire in their mid-forties and live off of the fruits of their hard work.

Approximately five years after the parties’ retirement and 10 years before their separation, Mr. Baryla’s mother’s health declined, leaving her with mobility issues. Mr. Baryla arranged for the purchase of the home next door to the Barylas’ family home. Mr. Baryla’s mother moved into the home and the Barylas assisted with her care.

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