These types of cases can be very difficult to get anywhere with. There are no common law rights for you to rely on regarding the house. Since you're not on the Deed and signed a document stating that the money was a gift, you're likely going to get nothing out of the house. You may have a shot at something with the business, but there are a lot of details you're going to have to go over with an attorney. You should consult with a local litigator to see how viable your claims are. $30,000 may not be an unreasonable offer under the circumstances, but you really should explore those circumstances in detail with your own attorney.
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The gift letter is a problem re: your equity claim.
I am a former federal and State prosecutor and now handle criminal defense and personal injury/civil rights cases. Feel free to check out my web site and contact me at (212) 577-9797 or via email at Eric@RothsteinLawNY.com. I was named to the Super Lawyers list as one of the top attorneys in New York for 2012. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers. The above answer is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.
I agree with the other attorney. In addition to their responses, it may be very difficult to find a lawyer who will take your claim on a contingency fee. Thus, you may be forced to pay an attorney on hourly basis. If the case you describe Is drawn out, it is likely you will pay your lawyer more than you will recover in your case. Thus, It will be difficult to litigate your case on a "cost-efficient basis".
Dear Bankrupt Partner:
New York is not a palimony state. Courts prefer that commercial disputes between business partners rely upon some form of written agreement (contract) or partnership agreement. When proof of an agreement is established by a document then the court may make a judgment derived from the memorialized understanding of the parties on how income, assets, liabilities and profits would be shared in the event a party claims damages due to breach of the agreement.
When you do not do this, you have to get beyond the appearance that two persons involved with each other to the point of declaration of domestic partnership, did what they did for love.
Consult with attorneys who may review your evidence and proof, and evaluate with you in a confidential setting causes of action you may have.
The answer provided to you is in the nature of general information. The general proposition being that you should try to avoid a bad outcome if you can.
There are two main impediments: the deed to the house is in her name, and the gift letter evinces intent of exactly that: a gift. It will not sound viable to claim that she is unjustly enriched by a gift.
However, if you did labor, technical work or development without a signed partnership agreement, you may still have a case for unjust enrichment, as well as possibly breach of fiduciary duty. However, I think all said, $30,000 may not be so bad. Just be more careful with who you trust, and remember that a domestic partner ultimately owes you nothing.