The legal implications of cohabitation have been making headlines again recently. There is still a belief by unmarried couples that they will get the same protection from the law as married couples do. This is sadly not the case.

Currently couples have few or no rights in the event of a relationship breakdown, meaning that unlike married couples there is no mechanism for splitting assets and no ability to claim help for childcare costs from an ex-partner in order to be able to work.

This is despite a huge growth in the number of couples and families that cohabit rather than marry.

A nationwide poll carried out by Whitestone Insight on behalf of Resolution found around half (47%) of cohabitees are unaware that they lack rights should they split up. 50% of cohabitees said they had no plans to get married while 34% of those expressing an opinion said they don’t believe in marriage. Over a third said they chose to spend money on a deposit for a house or flat instead of a wedding, while 28% said they started a family instead (source – Today’s Wills and Probate).

Whilst we await changes from Parliament, it is important to ensure you give thought to what you can do to protect yourself if you are currently cohabiting or intend to do so in the foreseeable future.

One way to protect yourself is with a Cohabitation Agreement.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement

It is a legal document between unmarried couples who are living together. It sets out arrangements for finances, property and your children while you’re living together and if you split up, become ill or die. You can make an agreement at any time but it’s good to do so before you move in together. You may also want to consider one if you decide to have children or get a mortgage. Without, you sadly do not have many rights. A member of our family team can prepare a Cohabitation Agreement and make sure it is legally binding.

Other factors to consider:

Ownership
If the house is not in your name, you are at risk if your partner asks you to leave. There are two types of joint ownership to consider: Tenants in Common and Joint Ownership. We can advise on the best course of action.

Protecting your share
It is advisable to sign a Declaration of Trust, which clearly outlines what you each own and how the value of the property would be divided should you ever separate in the future.

Without signing a Declaration of Trust, both parties could risk a complicated legal battle. If you don’t detail your individual shares in the property and you then later disagree on who should receive what, it may result in a costly court case.

Making a Will
It is particularly important for a cohabiting couple to make Wills, whatever the choice of joint ownership. The surviving partner will not automatically be entitled to the remaining share of the property as it becomes part of the deceased’s estate.

For further details do contact our family team on 01792 468684 or email enquiries@pgmsolicitors.co.uk.

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