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Do you think you have a common-law marriage?

Do you think you have a common-law marriage?

Do you need a cohabitation contract?

Apparently 46% of people in England and Wales believe in “common-law” marriage according to a recent survey on British attitudes towards common-law marriage commissioned by the University of Exeter. Households with children who believe in common-law marriage is as high as 55%.

Couples in such a relationship can often find that they are not as protected as they thought in the event that one partner dies, or they separate.

If you or your partner dies without naming the other in a will, your estate will pass to your next-of-kin. This could be your children or if you have no children together, a close relative. Your partner could be left without anything. There are provisions enabling an application to the court if you have lived together for over 2 years, but there is no automatic right. It also means that you will be applying to the courts at a time of great stress.

If you separate other than on death, the law is less generous still and there are no automatic rights for your partner. Your children may have their own rights against you, but this is restricted and linked to the children being under 18.

There are various options if you are cohabiting and do not wish to marry:

  • You can enter into a Living Together Agreement (Cohabitation Agreement) or contract stipulating what should happen to your assets and in relation to your children in the event of death or separation. It is not a particularly pleasant subject to bring up over dinner, but it is a necessary to discuss these issues.
  • You can give thought to your property ownership and put this in joint names with or without specific shares agreed. Alternatively a Declaration of Trust can be drawn up.
  • You should consider updating your Will to make provision for your partner and children.
  • You can check your pension death in-service benefits and ensure that you have nominated a beneficiary for this. This could be your partner, children or a combination of both, depending on the amount involved.

The main thing is to think about this and discuss it with your partner and take advice on how to protect each other in the event of the unexpected happening.

We at Coles can provide you with that specialist individual advice with a view to avoiding difficulties later.

You can read more about the personal services we offer here.

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