Contrary to popular belief, couples who live together but who do not marry do not acquire the same rights as married individuals even though the relationship lasts for many years and they may have children together. Similarly, if one dies they often wrongly assume their partner will receive everything.
With the increase in couples choosing to live together (cohabit), the legal and financial issues they face with children, property, pensions, separation and death become ever more important to understand and address. It may be a long term relationship and in many respects similar to that of marriage, but the law treats unmarried couples very differently from those who are married or in civil partnerships. You should not assume the law will look after you or your interests.
Whilst it may not be romantic to think about what might happen if you split up, couples should seriously think at the outset about how they can protect themselves if the relationship does break down or one of them should die, particularly if they are jointly purchasing a property and are considering having children together.
If you are thinking of living together, or are already living together, and going to jointly own property and have children, then you really do need a Living Together Agreement (Co-habitation Agreement) and advice on making a Will. The surviving partner is not the next of kin and without a Will, may not in fact be able to stay in the house, look after the children, continue to receive the deceased's pension, or receive any benefits from the deceased partner’s estate. It can all turn into a horrible mess for the one left behind.
However, it is important when entering into any agreement that you and your partner enter freely and voluntarily, that both of you have the benefit of independent legal advice and that full disclosure has been made of all relevant financial and other circumstances.
If you need further advice or you are interested in drawing up an agreement, please contact a member of our Family team who will be able to help you.