Partner and Head of Wills & Estate Planning at Andrew & Co Solicitors Helen Newson writes...
- AuthorSue Leadbeater
WHERE DO I STAND?
When starting out in a relationship not everyone makes the decision that they want to get married. Often couples will live together, sometimes for many years, before they do decide to marry. Unfortunately, many unmarried couples living together are unaware of their legal rights and wrongly believe that living together (cohabiting) makes them ‘common-law’ spouses with rights similar to those of married couples. In fact people who live together are treated quite differently from those who are married in particular in relation to property, children and what happens on death.
Many cohabitees contribute financially to a home, which may be owned in their partner’s name, or reduce their earning capacity by looking after children, only to receive little or nothing if that relationship ends or their partner dies without making proper provision.
Unmarried couples buying a house together should ensure that they have a written agreement setting out exactly who owns what. The law is such that if nothing is written down a court can reach a view about what they intended to achieve and what it believes to be a fair outcome but which could be something other than what the couple did intend. Unless everything is clear an unexpected outcome for one or both could be the result. Any dispute will cause stress, can lead to court proceedings and can be very costly and therefore damaging for families and children. It is crucial that couples who are thinking of living together take legal advice to reduce the likelihood of problems later.
Here at Andrew & Co we have specialist family lawyers to help you set up your arrangements in relation to any property, children and making a Will so you avoid unforeseen problems if your relationship breaks down or your partner dies unexpectedly. We can advise about legal rights in a relationship generally as well how those rights might change as a relationship develops with the birth of children or later marriage.