What to consider when you move in together

 An excerpt from Lawpack's Living Together - An Essential Legal Guide.

Cohabitation means living together as an unmarried couple. And more and more of us are doing it.

But do we know the risks. And do we realise that under current family law cohabitation is not granted the same rights and protection as marriage?

In the excitement of moving in together, the last thing you want to think about is the legal issues of cohabitation, but it's always best to know where you stand in case your relationship comes to an end. 

Even if you have lived with your partner for years and have children, you may still have no rights at all, so it is wise to consider your position from the outset.

The various issues you should think about are as follows:

  • Who owns your home?
  • Do you have rights over each other's finances?
  • Do you want to make decisions on your lifestyle?
  • What happens if one of you falls ill?
  • What happens if one of you dies?
  • If you are a gay couple, should you register your partnership under the Civil Partnerships Act 2004?

It's also worthwhile making formal agreements on these issues so that you can avoid possible conflict if any disputes arise. 

To live together without doing so could leave you or your family in a very vulnerable or uncertain position if one of you dies or you split up, whether or not you are the one with good income or most of the capital in your relationship.

The agreements you should think about preparing are:

  1. A trust deed relating to the ownership of your property in England and Wales or a registered minute of agreement in Scotland; a solicitor will be able to draw one up for you.

  2. A cohabitation agreement dealing with the financial structure of your relationship.

  3. A living together agreement on how you run your life; you can prepare your own using the example in our book Living Together - An Essential Legal Guide, or a specialist family solicitor or mediator can draft one for you.

  4. A Lasting Power of Attorney (Property and Affairs) to deal with your money and assets in case either of you becomes incapacitated.

  5. A Lasting Power of Attorney (Personal Welfare) to deal with how you wish to be cared for in case either of you becomes incapacitated.

  6. You should each be making a will. You can write a will with Lawpack. You may want to consider making your wills to be Mutual Wills, where each of you make a will to leave your interest in assets (e.g. property, bank account and any other assets you see fit) to the other, together with whatever other provisions may be appropriate. Making a will can also allow you to name guardians for your children: find out more in our article Making A will: how to name guardians for your children.

  7. A parental responsibility agreement if you have children; this can be obtained from your local County Court (or from the Court Service's website at www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk).

Published on: October 5, 2009

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