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Living Together – Managing Your Legal Rights

2016 has seen a record number of people choosing to cohabit. Given that the legal rights of couples who live together is radically different from the law that applies to married couples – including disputes in the event of death or separation – it’s important that you and your partner consider what steps you can take to protect yourselves and reduce the possibility of conflict.

  1. Make sure the way you own your property is properly recorded and reflects what you both feel is fair. Properties can be owned as joint tenants – the whole property passes to the other owner if one owner dies, or as tenants in common – and the deceased’s share passes in accordance with their will, or the laws of intestacy if they haven’t made a will. Tenants in common can also stipulate the percentages of the property they own – joint tenants automatically own 50% each.
  2. Have a declaration of trust to clarify any issues about ownership of property which might not be absolutely clear from the title deeds – this is a legal document which provides clear evidence of your intentions.
  3. Have a cohabitation agreement that sets out how you and your partner manage your finances i.e. who pays the mortgage and bills, who receives pension death benefits, and who owns the household contents or family car. A cohabitation agreement is a means of preventing conflict when living together relationships break down.
  4. Make a Will – people who live together without marrying don’t automatically inherit if their partner dies without making a Will – if you die without making a Will your assets could pass to your parents, siblings, or even distant relatives, rather than your partner.

If you are – or are thinking about – living together, these simple yet essential steps will protect your assets and ensure your wishes are carried out.

Finally, if you’re living with a partner and decide to get married, have children or enter into a civil relationship, it’s important to revisit, and give careful consideration to, the above points.

For help and advice, please contact our family law team.

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