Many couples these days are choosing not to get married and are instead choosing to live together on a long-term basis. This is what is commonly referred to as “cohabiting”. The legal implications of living together are rarely addressed until there is a relationship breakdown. When a relationship ends, the general rule is that each party shall keep their own property, without claim from the other. This can therefore cause a variety of issues, particularly if there is a property involved.
If the property of the relationship was purchased in joint names, either party can insist that the house be sold and proceeds split. If the property was in the sole name of one party, the courts will have no power to alter the ownership of the property, as they would in a divorce. In this scenario, it would therefore be for the non-owning party to prove that they made a significant contribution to the property, in an attempt to acquire an interest in the property. This may not provide the non-owning party with an equal share in the property but may allow them to gain some interest. If it cannot be proven that any contribution was made, the non-owning party could find themselves gaining nothing from the property.
To save any issues such as these arising, and before embarking on a new adventure together, couples should think about what would happen to their property, if their relationship broke down. It would be prudent to enter into a formal agreement, prior to cohabitation, detailing how any assets should be dealt with, in the event of a relationship breakdown.
Another issue to consider is that of having a Will. If one party passes away without leaving a Will, the surviving party will not automatically inherit anything unless the couple owned their property jointly. Making a Will would therefore be the only way of making sure that the surviving party inherits any property that was solely owned prior to death. In addition, making a Will would also prevent the surviving party from having to make an application to court to claim from the estate. As an unmarried couple, when making a Will, further consideration should also be given to placing provisions within the Will regarding estate and inheritance tax planning. The reason for doing this is that, if a person inherits money or property as an unmarried partner, they are not exempt from paying inheritance tax, as married couples would be.
If you have any queries, or would like advice on any of the issues raised, please feel free to contact our offices to arrange an appointment on 02892528170, or use our Contact Us page on our website https://skeltoncallender.com/