Understanding Legal and Beneficial Ownership of Property

  • By:sherryanderson

When it comes to owning property, there are two types of ownership that an individual can have: legal ownership and beneficial ownership. It is important to understand the difference between the two, as they can have a significant impact on one’s rights and interests in a property. In this article, we will be exploring legal and beneficial ownership of property, with a focus on the leading case of Pecore v Pecore (2007) SCC 17.

Legal Ownership:

  • Legal ownership refers to the right to the legal interest in a property.
  • The legal owner is the person who owns the legal title of the land and is registered at the Land Registry on the title deeds.
  • This gives the legal owner a right of control over the property, meaning they have the power to sell or transfer it.

Beneficial Ownership:

  • Beneficial ownership is an interest in the economic benefit of a property.
  • It belongs to the beneficial owner, who is entitled to the financial value of the land, regardless of the title entries at the Land Registry.
  • The beneficial owner is entitled to:
    • Live in the property
    • Receive a share of the rental income
    • Receive a share of the proceeds of sale if the property is sold

Separation of Legal and Beneficial Ownership:

  • It is possible for the legal owner and the beneficial owner of land to be different people.
  • In such a case, the legal owner (whose name is registered at the Land Registry) holds the property ‘on trust’ for the benefit of someone else, the beneficial owner.
  • The legal owner is referred to as the ‘bare trustee,’ while the beneficial owner is referred to as the ‘beneficiary.’

Finding the Legal Owner of a Property:

  • The legal owners of a property can be found by searching for them at the Land Registry.
  • The information is publicly available and can be easily accessed.


In conclusion, understanding the difference between legal and beneficial ownership of property is crucial for anyone who is interested in buying, selling, or managing property. While the legal owner has control over the property, the beneficial owner is entitled to the financial benefits of the property. It is possible for these two types of ownership to be separated, as is the case when property is managed through a trust. By searching at the Land Registry, you can easily find out who the legal owner of a property is.

Posted in: Real Estate