If a debtor owns property with another person and then becomes bankrupt, the bankrupt’s interest in the property will vest in the trustee and from that point on the trustee will have a beneficial interest in the property. For example, if A and B own a house together and they each have a 50% share in the house, then A’s 50% share will vest in his trustee as soon as he becomes bankrupt, so the trustee will have a 50% share and B will have a 50% share. The trustee’s beneficial interest will become a legal interest upon registration of a transfer. However, there may be circumstances where the legal title does not reflect the real interests of the registered proprietors and so, for example B is entitled to more than a 50% share.
If the trustee decides to recover the bankrupt’s interest in the property, the joint property owner can always negotiate with the trustee to buy the bankrupt’s former interest. However, if that option is not affordable or the joint property owner and the trustee cannot agree on a price, the trustee can make an application to the court for the appointment of trustees for sale, who will sell the property and divide the proceeds after the trustee’s fees, mortgage, legal fees and agents fees have been paid.
If you own property jointly with a bankrupt it is important to seek expert advice about your legal interests and entitlements before you take part in negotiations with the trustee to ensure you put your best case forward, and you do not short change yourself.