Living together outside of marriage or a civil partnership is common these days, but here’s the thing: if you’re in a cohabiting relationship but not married, the legal protections you get are nowhere near what married couples enjoy.
In England and Wales, there’s no such thing as a ‘common-law spouse’, no matter how long you’ve been together. At the moment, if you’re not joint owners of property or assets, you don’t automatically have rights to things like property, pensions, or savings if you break up or one of you passes away.
However, there are ways that you can protect your loved one and yourself in a cohabiting relationship:
Draw up a legal agreement
It’s a smart move to set up a legal agreement before you move in with your partner. You can draw up a cohabitation agreement that spells out who owns what, who pays which bills, and what happens in case you split up. It’s like an insurance policy for your relationship.
Ready-made templates you find online might not cover everything you need. It’s better to get one that’s personalised for your specific situation. Sure, it might cost a bit (around £500 to £1000), but it’s worth it for peace of mind.
Write a will
When it comes to making wills, it’s just as crucial for cohabiting couples. Without a will, your partner might not automatically inherit your things if something happens to you. So, it’s a good idea to consult a solicitor.
Think about taxes
Unmarried partners don’t get the same tax breaks as married couples. If you leave assets to your spouse in your will, it’s usually free from inheritance tax. But unmarried couples could face a hefty tax bill on anything over £325,000.
How you own property matters, too. If you’re joint tenants, you both own the whole property. If you’re tenants in common, you own specific shares. This affects what happens if one of you passes away.Don’t forget about pensions!
When it comes to pensions, unlike married couples, cohabiting partners don’t automatically get each other’s state pensions. You need to fill out forms to make sure your partner gets anything if something happens to you.
Thankfully, from February 2023, the government extended some benefits to cohabiting parents, like bereavement support payment and widowed parent’s allowance.
So, whether it’s drawing up agreements, making wills, considering taxes, or sorting out property and pensions, there’s a lot to think about if you’re in a live-in relationship but not married and that’s where we are here to help.