Cohabiting Couples –

Protecting Your Rights and Your Future

Cohabitation is an exciting commitment, but you should know where you stand legally.

According to The Office of National Statistics, in July 2020 there were over 3.5 million cohabiting couples in the United Kingdom. With this modern-day family dynamic on the rise, we look at what legal rights you have if you live with your partner, and how to ensure your rights as a couple, and as an individual, are protected.

Legal rights for cohabitating couples

It has long been misunderstood that cohabitating couples are entitled to the same legal rights as married couples. Unfortunately, this is not the case. ‘Common law spouse’ is not a legally recognised term in the United Kingdom. The term originates from a time when it was not socially acceptable for couples to live together and have children outside of a legally binding marriage.

A marriage creates legal rights in areas such as finance, debt, property, and children. In the event of a marriage breakdown, property, finance, and childcare arrangements are dealt with by the Family Court.

When cohabiting couples separate or one partner dies without naming the other in their Will, decisions on how to divide assets and inherit estates are governed by property law. Dividing assets can become complicated, for example, if your partner dies without naming you in their Will, their estate will usually pass on to their next of kin meaning you could be left without a claim to the family home.

Fortunately, there are simple solutions that can help avoid complications and provide peace of mind for cohabiting couples.

Cohabitation agreements

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding document setting out your arrangements for property, finance, and children while you live together, in the event of a relationship break up or the death of one partner.

As specialist family law solicitors, our team will help to draft a cohabitation agreement that protects you.

The agreement can cover how you and your partner will share the rent or mortgage and bills, how to deal with any bank accounts, and what will happen with the property or assets should you separate. A cohabitation agreement helps to agree things in a fair way, without the emotional pressures which can arise when a relationship breaks down.

Wills

Whilst a cohabitation agreement will manage your day-to-day life, making a Will is the only way to ensure that your assets are distributed as you would wish after either of you passes away.

This is particularly important if you have loved ones that you want to provide for. Naming your partner in your Will is especially important if you wish for them to benefit from your estate. Writing your Will can be quite emotional, but we listen to you and understand your wishes to help draft a Will that names your partner as your beneficiary, that will give you peace of mind your partner and your family will be taken care of after you die.

If you or your partner pass away without leaving a Will, your respective estates will be distributed in line with the laws of intestacy (i.e., it will go to each of your named kin).

Protecting your family and your assets

A big part of having a cohabitation agreement and the will-making process involves planning for your future, and for the future of your children.

Estate planning will help you and your partner to protect your wealth for future generations. When you and your partner each make a Will, you can structure your estate in a way that is tax-efficient and ensures you leave behind as much as possible for your children. It also helps you to avoid any wider family disputes when a death occurs, as this is already an extremely sensitive time.

It is also important that you discuss your wishes with your partner, and that you choose people you trust to manage your affairs and those most capable of conducting the role of executor of your estate, like your solicitor.

Get in touch

Being prepared and protecting your and your family’s future is important. If you need help preparing a cohabitation agreement or need a Will that ensures your partner and your children are left financially secure, then contact our team today.