For better, for worse
It is hard to fathom where the myth of “common law marriage” is derived from
However, the fact is that an unmarried couple must rely mainly upon property rights. A lifelong partner who is not on the title to the family home may be left with nothing if the relationship breaks down, or if that partner dies without a Will.
There are some straightforward steps that can and should be taken to try to avoid an unjust and unfair outcome (and, potentially, a lot of cost and heartache). So:-
i) If you are buying a property together, ensure that there is a deed or declaration of trust and that each of you will have a fair share of the property if the relationship ends;
ii) Better still, enter into a cohabitation agreement, confirming how all of your assets will be shared if your relationship breaks down and whether one should provide ongoing financial support to the other;
iii) Make a Will. If you do not, then your partner will not inherit anything from your estate under the intestacy rules and might be left trying to make a claim against the estate as a dependant, no matter how long you have lived together; and
iv) Nominate the person who should receive any death-in-service benefits, life insurance pay outs or pension benefits in the event of your death. Ask your employer, pension company or life company for the appropriate forms.
There is an old adage that will serve you well: prepare for the worst, then hope for the best. And another: spend a little on legal advice now, or a great deal more later. If these issues are relevant to your current position, please contact us to arrange an appointment.
By Bruce Leyland
Partner, Taunton Solicitors
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