Pettitt v Pettitt: HL 23 Apr 1969

A husband and wife disputed ownership of the matrimonial home in the context of the presumption of advancement.
Lord Reid said: ‘These considerations have largely lost their force under present conditions, and, unless the law has lost its flexibility so that the courts can no longer adapt it to changing conditions the strength of the presumption must have been much diminished. I do not think it would be proper to apply it to the circumstances of the present case.’
Lord Hodson said: ‘Reference has been made to the ‘presumption of advancement’ in favour of a wife in receipt of a benefit from her husband. In old days when a wife’s right to property was limited, the presumption, no doubt, had great importance and today, when there are no living witnesses to a transaction and inferences have to be drawn, there may be no other guide to a decision as to property rights than by resort to the presumption of advancement. I do not think it would often happen that when evidence had been given, the presumption would today have any decisive effect.’ Lord Upjohn: ‘But the document may be silent as to the beneficial title. The property may be conveyed into the name of one or other or into the names of both spouses jointly in which case parol evidence is admissible as to the beneficial ownership that was intended by them at the time of acquisition and if, as very frequently happens as between husband and wife, such evidence is not forthcoming, the court may be able to draw an inference as to their intentions from their conduct. If there is no such available evidence then what are called the presumptions come into play. They have been criticised as being out of touch with the realities of today but when properly understood and properly applied to the circumstances of today I remain of opinion that they remain as useful as ever in solving questions of title’ and ‘Though normally referred to as a presumption of advancement, it is no more than a circumstance of evidence which may rebut the presumption of resulting trust, and the learned editors of White and Tudor were careful to remind their readers at p763 that ‘all resulting trusts which arise simply from equitable presumptions, may be rebutted by parol evidence’ This doctrine applies equally to personalty. These presumptions or circumstances of evidence are readily rebutted by comparatively slight evidence.’
Lord Diplock noted that: ‘It would, in my view, be an abuse of the legal technique for ascertaining or imputing intention to apply to transactions between the post-war generation of married couples ‘presumptions’ which are based upon inferences of fact which an earlier generation of judges drew as to the most likely intentions of earlier generations of spouses belonging to the propertied classes of a different social era.’
As to the presumption of advancement. Lord Upjohn commented that it is ‘readily rebutted by comparatively slight evidence.’

Lord Reid, Lord Hodson, Lord Upjohn
[1969] 2 WLR 966, [1969] 2 All ER 385, [1970] AC 777, [1969] UKHL 5
England and Wales
Cited by:
ConsideredSpringett v Defoe CA 1992
Partners lived together, without being married, as secure joint tenants. They exercised the right to buy, contributing three quarters and one quarter of the price respectively. At the time they intended to marry. They did not discuss he shares, and . .
CitedLloyds Bank plc v Rosset HL 29-Mar-1990
The house had been bought during the marriage but in the husband’s sole name. The plaintiff’s charge secured the husband’s overdraft. The bank issued possession proceedings. Mr Rosset had left, but Mrs Rosset claimed, as against the bank an interest . .
CitedLavelle v Lavelle and others CA 11-Feb-2004
Property had been purchased in the name of of the appellant by her father. She appealed a finding that the presumption of advancement had been rebutted.
Held: The appeal failed. The presumption against advancement had been rebutted on the . .
AppliedBurns v Burns CA 1984
Long Relationship Not Enough for Interest in Home
The parties lived together for 17 years but were not married. The woman took the man’s name, but beyond taking on usual household duties, she made no direct financial contribution to the house. She brought up their two children over 17 years. . .
CitedWalker v Hall CA 1984
The court considered the way of distributing property purchased by an unmarried couple: ‘When such a relationship comes to an end, just as with many divorced couples, there are likely to be disputes about the distribution of shared property. How are . .
CitedGrant v Edwards and Edwards CA 24-Mar-1986
A couple were not married but lived together in Vincent Farmhouse in which the plaintiff claimed a beneficial interest on separation. The female partner was told by the male partner that the only reason for not acquiring the property in joint names . .
CitedMcFarlane v McFarlane CANI 1972
The parties disputed their respective shares in the family home. The facts in Pettitt and Gissing ‘were not such as to facilitate or encourage a comprehensive statement of this vexed branch of the law’ and ‘much remains unsettled.’ The court . .
CitedStack v Dowden CA 13-Jul-2005
The parties purchased a property together. The transfer contained a survivorship restriction but no declaration of the beneficial interests. The judge had held the property to be held as tenants in commn on equal shares.
Held: In a case where . .
CitedCrossley v Crossley CA 21-Dec-2005
The claimant appealed an order that a house was to be held in equal shares with her son. The house was registered in their joint names, but the transfer contained no declaration of the interests. The house had been originally bought by the mother . .
CitedBernard v Josephs CA 30-Mar-1982
The court considered the division of proceeds of sale of a house bought by an unmarried couple.
Held: Where the trusts for which a property was purchased have been concluded, the house should be sold.
Griffiths LJ said: ‘the fact that . .
CitedClarke v Harlowe ChD 12-Aug-2005
The parties lived together. They acquired between them several properties of which the last was declared to be held as joint tenants. The relationship broke down. The parties now sought a declaration as to the destination of the proceeds of sale, . .
CitedPudner and Another v Pudner CA 27-Feb-2006
The parties challenged the validity of a will, and claimed the house by survivorship. The house had been conveyed into joint names, but the solicitors on registration had declared it a tenancy in common. This was said to have been a mistake.
CitedStack v Dowden HL 25-Apr-2007
The parties had cohabited for a long time, in a home bought by Ms Dowden. After the breakdown of the relationship, Mr Stack claimed an equal interest in the second family home, which they had bought in joint names. The House was asked whether, when . .
CitedJones v Kernott SC 9-Nov-2011
Unmarried Couple – Equal division displaced
The parties were unmarried but had lived together. They now disputed the shares in which they had held the family home. It had been bought in joint names, but after Mr Kernott (K) left in 1993, Ms Jones (J) had made all payments on the house. She . .
CitedJones v Kernott SC 9-Nov-2011
Unmarried Couple – Equal division displaced
The parties were unmarried but had lived together. They now disputed the shares in which they had held the family home. It had been bought in joint names, but after Mr Kernott (K) left in 1993, Ms Jones (J) had made all payments on the house. She . .
CitedBen Hashem v Ali Shayif and Another FD 22-Sep-2008
The court was asked to pierce the veil of incorporation of a company in the course of ancillary relief proceedings in a divorce. H had failed to co-operate with the court.
After a comprehensive review of all the authorities, Munby J said: ‘The . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Trusts, Family

Leading Case

Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.187404