Couples who have lived together may believe they become ‘common-law spouses’, a term frequently used but having no legal recognition.

Unmarried couples are being warned they could be set for an inheritance nightmare, due to the “common law” myth. Perhaps most importantly is the rule that states there is normally no inheritance tax to pay if a person leaves everything above the threshold to their spouse or civil partner.

However, this is not extended to those who have been in a relationship but not married – even if they have cohabited for years.

The same goes for the issue of inheritance itself, as a person will not be able to automatically inherit on the death of their partner.

Many unmarried couples still believe they have the same rights are married couples – therefore, many do not realise they have to actively make a claim for inheritance when their partner passes away.

We would suggest drafting a Cohabitation Agreement – a legal document between unmarried couples who are living together. It sets out arrangements for finances, property and children while you’re living together and if you split up, become ill or die.

You can make an agreement at any time, a member of our family team can prepare a cohabitation agreement and make sure it is legally binding.  Cohabitation agreements can also be made between people who are not romantically involved – for example, friends or siblings.

For further advice and guidance, contact our specialist team on 01792 468684 or email We can help guide you through the process of ensuring you are protected when cohabiting.

Sources: Express/Telegraph.

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