2.9 million people in long term relationships choose to live together without getting married, according to the Office of National Statistics, there were 2.9 million cohabiting couples in Britain in 2013.
Many people assume that if they live together, the law gives them some rights as a couple – the concept of the ‘Common Law Spouse’ is a myth. Instead, cohabiting couples often find themselves with no control or receipt of assets if they lose their partner.
Case study – Billy and Emma’s house
Billy and Emma met over 10 years ago – they had started dating and quickly realised that they wanted to live together. At the time, Emma was a student and Billy was a homeowner, so it made perfect sense for Emma to move into Billy’s flat. Over the years they built a whole life together and never felt the need to get married.
Fast forward to last year, when Billy was tragically killed in an accident on his way to work. Emma was grief stricken and was grateful when Billy’s family took care of the funeral arrangements.
Emma knew that Billy had never made a Will, but assumed that the house would automatically be transferred to her. After all, it was their home.
However when Emma had first moved in to Billy’s flat, it had never seemed necessary to add her name to the mortgage and as they didn’t particularly want to, they never did.
Sadly, when somebody dies without a Will, strict Intestacy Laws come into play. In Billy’s case, the rules dictated that the house now belonged to his parents along with the rest of his estate.
Although Emma got along well with Billy’s parents, they needed to sell the house, leaving Emma with nowhere to live and no choice but to leave the place where she had built a life with someone she loved.
Cohabiting couples can give their partner ‘life interest’ in their house without putting their name on the mortgage
If Billy had made a Will, he could have given Emma ‘life interest’ in the house. This would have allowed her to stay in the house after his death.
Gillian Graveson is a Partner at Birchall Blackburn Law who specialises in Family Law. She said:
“Cohabitation is the natural choice for many couples these days. Unfortunately, their relationships are not recognised in the eyes of the law.
“With a little careful planning, cohabitees have plenty of options. We would advise drafting a cohabitation agreement to protect the interests of both partners if the relationship breaks down.
“Even more importantly, you need to have a will. You will find great peace of mind in knowing that should something happen to you, your loved one will be provided for.”
Living with someone is a big commitment. These days, you are just as likely to decide to spend your life with someone without getting married. Marching straight to the solicitor’s office may sound a little unromantic, but it can save you untold pain in the future.
Our Family Law and experts understand that this is a complex area of law that many people haven’t heard of. To chat to one of our friendly team about your options, contact us on 0800 614 722 or 0333 321 2192 from mobile.