Protection for cohabiting couples

Posted 14th May 2015

Written by Emma Hartley

If you are cohabiting with your partner, you may not know that you will have few legal rights if you separate. 

Whilst you will not enter into a relationship with a view that it will end, it is important that you take steps to protect your position.

 Here are a few ideas:

1. Cohabitation Agreements

If no immediate or any marriage is on the horizon but you and your partner are currently living with each other in either a solely or jointly owned property, a Cohabitation Agreement will need to be considered.  A Cohabitation Agreement helps you to work out and set down all the practical arrangements that need to be covered whilst you live together. It helps you to set down all the arrangements that you need, both now and on any future separation.

2. Ownership of the Property

If the family home is owned in joint names, it will be held either as “joint tenants” or “tenants in common”. The most likely form of ownership is that the property is held between you as “joint tenants”. This means that an automatic right of “survivorship” applies, so that on the death of one of you, that person´s share will automatically pass to the survivor.  Ownership under “tenants in common” prevents the automatic right of survivorship occurring and allows each person´s share to be left under their Will.

If you have paid unequal shares towards the property, a “Declaration of Trust” may be more appropriate to show specific shares that each owner holds in the property and how this will be dealt with upon any separation or sale.

3. Wills

It is essential that you have a valid and up to date Will in place. Cohabitees do not automatically have rights to their partner’s estate if they die without leaving  a will.

If you wish to discuss these or any other family law issues, please contact Emma Hartley of Newtons Solicitors.  Emma offers a first class approach to what can be a difficult and upsetting time.