Living with a partner
Many people think that if you live with a partner for a couple of years you acquire the same rights as married couples. In fact, unmarried couples have hardly any automatic rights at all.
A Living Together or Cohabitation Agreement can be used to record how you will own and share things, how your day to day finances will be organised, and how property, assets and income can be divided fairly if you ever split up.
An agreement setting out what would happen if you did split up doesn’t mean that you think you will - anymore than taking out building insurance means that you think your house will fall down. In fact, it can strengthen your relationship by helping both partners to feel happier and more secure.
If you're buying a new home together, or moving into a property one of you owns already, think carefully about how you want to own it. Who will be paying the mortgage and what if one of you pays for home improvements? Choosing between owning it in one person’s name, as 'joint tenants', or as ‘tenants in common’ will make a big difference to your rights if you separate or if one of you dies.
If the home is one person’s sole name, and there's no other agreement or understanding in place, the other will have no automatic right to stay if they are asked to leave. Issues like these often lead to complex and expensive Co-ownership Disputes.
You should also ensure that you have up to date Wills. If you die without a Will, your assets will pass to your blood relatives, including the family home if it’s in your sole name or your share in the home if you own it jointly as ‘tenants in common’. Your partner won’t be entitled to anything – which might not be what you want.
Check your pension schemes - some don’t pay survivor’s benefits to unmarried partners. Think about how you can build up separate pensions for each of you.