For most couples, deciding to move in together is an exciting time, looking to the future, and planning a home together can be the start of a great lifetime ahead, but not protecting your assets or your legal position can be a very risky course of action.
By the time many couples realise that, in law, they are considered as separate individuals, it’s too late to put any legal protection in place. Many couples believe that living together gives them legal rights, but marriage at common law does not exist, and unless you have agreed your positions at the start of cohabiting, your situation can be very weak.
In the event of a relationship degrading, or your partner’s death, we would always recommend the parties involved seek professional legal advice as soon as possible. Family and marital law can be difficult; emotions are usually strong, as it concerns areas of our lives that mean the most to us. Engaging an experienced and understanding legal professional to manage your position in law is the first thing you should do.
Protecting yourself and your family in your joint home
Whether you or your partner own your home, there are a few things to consider when you are cohabiting.
If your partner owns the house
The house is only in your partner’s name; there is no “tenants in common” or “joint tenants” agreement, and you don’t have any documented financial rights to the property. If the relationship breaks down and you are asked to leave, you might not have any right to continue to live there. If your partner died whilst you were cohabiting, the house would automatically become a part of their estate if they hadn’t left it to you in their will. With no agreement, you would not be considered as their next of kin, despite any relationship between you.
Tenants in common
Your solicitor may suggest that a “tenants in common” agreement (deed of trust) is drawn up. This means that the portion of the property which each of you own is clearly stated and agreed in advance. This arrangement does not mean that you automatically inherit the other’s share; you would have to will your share of the property to each other for this to apply.
Rather like tenants in common, “joint tenants” is an agreement to define who owns what, however, different from tenants in common, both parties are not seen as individuals. Regardless of who is next of kin, or what is agreed in the wills of both, the home is inherited by the surviving partner. Any other arrangements (children and estate) would need to be made under the guidance of your solicitor in your will. Couples who separate under this agreement would have a claim to an equal share of the property.
Other matters not to forget
Don’t think that moving in together is settled by just your deed of trust. Couples who haven’t married or become civil partners do not have automatic next of kin status. It is more important that you think to get your will drawn up by your solicitor. To be certain that your partner inherits your joint home and to give you both joint parental responsibility of your children, it is crucial that you get professional advice. Don’t leave it until it’s too late.
Key points to address:
Next of kin status
Asset division – your home
Will – protecting your family
Children – their future
What to do next
It makes sense to get advice before you buy or move in with each other. Get in touch with Courmacs for an impartial and confidential conversation at our Urmston office. We are your local expert on family law and conveyancing; we can advise you on your individual rights and hold your hand through the tough times.
Did you know?
According to the Office for National Statistics, marriage and civil partnerships are still the most popular household type, but the fastest growing is the cohabiting relationship. Did you know that in 2017 there were almost 3.9 million couples cohabiting in the UK?