Cohabitation in the UK and your rights

Cohabitation in the UK and your rights

Cohabitation in the UK and your rights

by | Inheritance

Cohabitation is an arrangement where two people who are not married live together.  Cohabitation is increasingly common choice for couples.  There are a number of socio-economic reasons for the increasing numbers.  But what are the rights of cohabiting couples when one of the partners dies?

The short answer is there are no rights for the remaining cohabiting partner!  The term ‘common law’ is often used in discussing cohabitation.  However, there is no such thing as ‘common law wife’ or ‘common law husband’.  The position of your partner also changes if you have children together.

If you are purchasing a property with a partner, be sure to purchase as  ‘joint tenants’.  Upon death, the property will automatically pass to the surviving co-owner. If you purchase as ‘tenants in common’, your share can be gifted to anyone.  If you have separated from a previous spouse but not legally, they still have an entitlement to your assets.  This can be a horrific situation for a remaining partner.

It took Dorset resident Joy Williams years to win a legal battle for her home.  Her cohabiting partner of 18 years had not divorced his wife after separating.  He died suddenly with no will.  His ‘tenants in common’ share of their home passed to his wife.  The judge ruled that his current cohabiting partner was entitled to make a claim against the estate of Martin and she should “retain an absolute interest” in the house.  This case should be a wake up call to law makers and cohabitees alike.

If you are thinking about or already cohabiting, a little planning is all that is required.  A cohabitation agreement is recommended.  And a will is a must.  Ensure that your assets pass to the one you love.

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