The thought of moving in with your partner, or buying a house together, may have you dreaming of fun shops to IKEA and cooking up delicious dishes together. However, few couples realise how risky this move can be from a legal side of things.
Although it may seem outdated, unmarried couples are not protected by the same laws as married couples. Sadly, often when people realise this, it’s too late. In the unfortunate circumstance where a relationship breaks down or a partner passes away, only then do they discover they have no legal protection.
If you’re in a situation where you’re planning on moving in together and are not married, it’s well worth seeking out some legal advice to see what rights both people have, where your partner and yourself stand in all situations and what you can do to make your position more secure.
When seeking professional legal advice, you may want to find a residential property lawyer. Your solicitor may ask for information such as a list of both yours and your partners assets, contributions you’ve made to the value of the property and both yours and your partner’s earnings.
If you’re moving in with someone and the house is only in their name, usually you have no rights to the proceeds that would come from selling the house. As well as this, you also have no legal right to live there if your partner asks you to leave.
When seeking legal advice, your lawyer may recommend that you transfer the house from just your partner’s name into “joint tenants.” This way if you sell the property you are entitled to a share of the profits, plus if one of you is to die, you will automatically inherit the property, regardless of wills.
It’s not just the property element of moving in together you have to think about, having separate bank accounts can also expose you to some problems. With not having access to your partner’s account, if a crisis like death happened, their account will become part of their estate, which means you will not automatically inherit the money unless stated in their will.
Tax benefits are also different for unmarried couples. Unmarried couples living together may have to pay tax if they want to give a hand over a major asset to their partner.
A will could be a useful way of straightening out which property and assets belong to you and your partner. If you don’t make a will, your partner will not have automatic right to a share of your assets.
Alternatively, cohabitation contracts are quickly gaining recognition as a way of sorting couples arrangements. These “honourable agreements” allow you both to set out which each member of the relationship expects from the other if the relationship was to come to an end. Although not all of the clauses in this agreement stand up in court, it does limit disagreements. Before considering a cohabitation contract, both people in the relationship should seek separate legal advice.