Unmarried Relationships

A couple who are living together, but who have not married or entered into a civil partnership do not have the legal rights over each other, or the legal duties and responsibilities that come with marriage or civil partnership.

It is a common myth that there is such a thing as a 'common-law spouse' or a 'common-law marriage'. The fact is that there is no such thing. If you are living together, you have no right to maintenance and no automatic right to inherit property if your partner dies.

It is therefore very important to consider your rights and your legal position, even if your relationship is strong and healthy. Thinking about your legal position now can save a lot of time, money and stress in the future.


LIVING TOGETHER AGREEMENTS

When you first are thinking of living together, often the last thing on a couple's minds is putting any kind of a structure in place for how things will work. Most people think that it isn't needed, or that it is a sign of a lack of trust. But, if these matters aren't discussed at this point, things are just all the more likely to go wrong sometime in the future. Planning now can help you avoid problems, as well as helping solve them.

A living together agreement is a legal document which clearly records what you and your partner have agreed to. Then, if you ever split up, if can help prove what you agreed, saving time and costly legal arguments.

Graham White and Company can take your instructions to draw up your living together agreement to be comprehensive and legally binding. Although a living together agreement cannot stop court action, the court is likely to uphold what has been written in the agreement as long as you were both honest with each other when the document was drawn up.

What can go into a living together agreement?
The contents of a living together agreement are highly versitile and we can fully advise you on its contents. But you can put into a living together agreement all the things which you agree - who will pay for what, how things will be shared and what will happen if you spilt up.

It is important to remember that changes in your circumstances may have an effect on a living together agreement, for example if you change jobs or if you have children together. We can advise you when making the agreement on the need to include provisions for forseeable changes in the original deed, however it is wise to review the agreement every two to three years to see whether there are any changes needed to it to take into account any unforseeable changes to your lives and to make sure the agreement is still fair and that it meets your needs.


OWNERSHIP OF PROPERTY

If you buy property together and you are unmarried, it is especially important to consider your legal position at the time of purchase. We can advise you fully on how best to cover your legal position and may make specific recommendations as part of our comprehensive conveyancing service.

When you purchase property together, you need to chose how you hold the property - either as 'joint tenants' or 'tenants in common'. These are technical legal terms, but you need to make sure that you understand them, because the difference is important.

  • If you hold the property as 'joint tenants' this means that you hold the property together, rather than in identifiable shares. If one of you dies, the other person automatically inherits the whole of the property. If you own property under a joint tenancy, you cannot leave it to anyone else by Will.

  • Property held as tenants in common is held in identifiable shares and you should state hold much of the property you each hold when you purchase it. You may hold the property in equal shares, or in disproportionate shares (for example one of you may own 40% and the other 60%). Likewise, it may be the case that one of you has put forward the deposit on the property and you wish this to be reflected in your proportions. When you hold property as tenant in common, the shares are separate and if you die, your share is passed on in accordance with your Will. If you do not have a Will, then your share will pass to your next of kin, not your partner, which may be contrary to your intentions.

We are able to fully advise you in regards to how you hold the legal title to your property. If you hold the property as tenants in common and fail to record how the shares are divided, the law states that the shares are assumed to be equal. It is therefore important to reflect the ownership of your property in a Deed of Trust, which will set out clearly how the property is divided and your wishes for the future.


MOVING INTO A PROPERTY OWNED BY YOUR PARTNER

If you move into your partner's house this does not give you any automatic rights in the property. If the property is sold, you have no rights to remain there, stop the sale or take any of the proceeds of sale.

In certain circumstances, you may acquire rights in your partner's home and if you wish to discuss whether you have obtained any rights in your partner's home, we would be happy to talk to you about this.

Acquiring rights in your partner's home is often down to what has been agreed between you. or what your have paid towards the property. It is not always simple to work out exactly what has been agreed or what contributions have been made. In order to avoid a legal dispute in the future, it is always best to make sure that any agreements you make are clear and reflected in a living together agreement, or a Deed of Trust.


UNMARRIED RELATIONSHIP BREAKDOWN

The issues arising from the breakdown of a relationship between a couple who are unmarried is very different from those arising where the couple were married, or in a registered civil partnership because there are no specific laws governing the breakdown of an unmarried relationship.

Graham White and Company has Solicitors who are experienced with dealing with matters arising from unmarried relationship breakdown and if you are seeking advice, or want to know where you stand, we are happy to talk to you. We can help you reach an agreement with your former partner and manage the issues arising from the breakdown from start to finish, giving you the personal service of a single qualified Solicitor throughout.

We will be able to help and advise on matters ranging from financial issues to arrangements if you have children to sorting out the family home.


WHAT TO DO IF YOUR PARTNER DIES

Unlike married couples (or those in a civil partnership), unmarried partners do not automatically inherit if their partner dies without a Will. Therefore it is especially important to ensure that you have a Will in place if you are in a relationship but are not married, or in a civil partnership.

If your partner dies without a Will and you have not been provided for, you may be able to make a claim to the court for part of the estate. We will be able to advise you on whether or not you will be able to make a claim.

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