Cohabitation: A Do and Don’t Guide
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Moving in with a new partner can be incredibly exciting, and so it should be, it is the next step of your life together. There are however, a few things that need your consideration…
The world is changing
There are now 3.3 million cohabiting couples in the UK, up from 1.5 million in 1996. More and more couples are now choosing to cohabit their entire relationship rather than getting married. Some may want to marry in the future but live together for a long time beforehand.
Unfortunately, legislation doesn’t always keep up with changing behaviour. Cohabitants don’t get nearly as much protection financially as married couples do, and your rights can become a bit of a minefield. Particularly when it comes to property.
There are however, certain actions you can take to protect yourself which we will discuss here.
If you are already living with a partner and you don’t have these measures in place, don’t worry, we can help you get your affairs in order retrospectively.
How to protect yourselves
Firstly, let’s look at property and the conundrum you are presented with when one partner moves in to the others property. A property that they own, with or without a mortgage…
If you move in with a partner they will likely expect some financial contribution from you, equally you will probably want some sort of interest in the property if you are contributing to mortgage payments, or large renovations, for example.
We would suggest that you create and maintain an ongoing culture of open and clear communication between you. Agree beforehand what interests you will both have in the property, and what financial contributions will be made by both parties.
You then need to consult a solicitor to help you set up a Cohabitation Agreement and to assist with amending the Deed of Trust and legal title on the property, where necessary. This can be a complex and emotionally challenging situation, so always get the help of an impartial legal expert. Our team at DRN have the experience and the knowledge to handle all of this for you.
Talk to us before you move in together if possible, or as soon as you can thereafter. Not only does this protect you and your partner legally should the relationship break down, it will likely improve your relationship thanks to the injection of the new-found clarity and security. What might start off as an awkward conversation can result in increased harmony for many years to come.
The same principles apply if you are yet to buy property. Don’t agree to a partner putting a new property solely in their name if you are both going to contribute financially.
Always keep records of each of your contributions to property too, and make it clear who owns what proportion of all property. Again, this can be done with a Deed of Trust, or by making changes to the legal title of the property.
Make a will
Making a will is a critical step that you both need to take.
Cohabiting couples simply don’t have the protection that married couples enjoy, so formalising what happens in the event of either of your deaths is of utmost importance. Unlike married couples, your partner won’t automatically inherit from you.
If you already live with your partner, or if you are planning to take the leap, and you don’t have up to date will’s in place, contact us as soon as you can so that we can arrange these for you. If you both need a will creating, which we would recommend as both of your circumstances are changing, our mirrored will’s service will likely be the suitable choice.
Finally, property aside, we would recommend that you hold separate current accounts as cohabitees, which can simplify matters in the event of a split. Additionally, should you have children together, you will both be responsible for them financially, whether you wed or remain as a cohabiting couple.
Contact the DRN team
For more advice on property matters, or to make an appointment to arrange your will, you can reach both our Conveyancing Team and our Private Client Team on 01282 433 241.