In today's society, couples are increasingly choosing live together but not marry, which could prove problematic from a legal point of view.
Courtyard Solicitors wanted to inform our clients of the risks that cohabiting couples would be exposed to if something were to happen to their relationship. For example, a separation would leave the partner who is in a weaker financial situation in an extremely vulnerable situation and a death of a partner could leave the other partner without a house and financial support.
Courtyard Solicitors, Sean White, comments on this area of law,
“This is an important area as so many people do believe in the concept of a “common law marriage” but there is no such thing in English law. If you are not married you are treated as two separate people. Problems can arise in a number of circumstances:
If the property you live in is in one person’s sole name then the other party does not have any rights to any sale proceeds unless they can show that it was always intended to be owned jointly - this generally involves expensive litigation and there is never a guarantee it would be successful.
If one person dies then unless they have made a will leaving monies to the other that person will have no right to the deceased person's estate. They could seek to make a claim as a dependent but once again this involves litigation.”
So how can this expensive litigation be avoided? There are a number of ways for cohabiting couples to avoid expensive litigation such as:
1. Create a living together agreement that includes:
What each person owns and to what proportions
What is the intended ownership
What contributions have been made to the property or household and if they make a difference to ownership
Who has the rights to occupy and use the property
If you separate what is to happen - if one person remains in the house with the children for example
What life events should result in a review of the agreements, such as a birth of a child and selling a property
In the event of a death, what position would the partner left be in
2. Make a Will
3. Research and plan your pensions
4. Be informed of the tax implications upon death and distributing assets
To find out more legal advice on this subject, you can use our contact form to speak to one of our specialist family law solicitors today.