Govt scraps rights for cohabiting couples

by Sarah Ashcroft

Government plans to give couples who live together the same cohabiting rights as married couples have been scrapped.

The Ministry of Justice has abandoned the plans after concerns were raised over the value of marriage being devalued.

Ministers confirmed that the Law Commission proposals, which were published under the last Labour government, would not be introduced during this Parliament.

As part of the plans, couples who had been living together for just two years would have been given inheritance rights to the other person's estate if they had not decided to make a will.

Those who had been cohabiting for five years or more, however, would have seen all their cohabiting rights extended to be the same as married couples.

Inheritance rights would also have been given automatically to couples who had a child together if one of the partners had died without making a will.

Although family campaigners welcomed the scrapping of the change to cohabiting rights, the current rules don't reflect the fact that cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type in the UK.

Personal finance expert Sarah Pennells said: "The Royal Commission spent a long time coming up with these proposals and they weren't putting living together on a par with marriage, they were simply giving cohabiting couples some more rights.

"Not everyone choses to marry and the the current system is very confusing so people tend to assume that they have rights when they don't. This means that they often find out at the worst moment - when their partner dies or their relationship ends - that they aren't protected.

"The proposed changes would have made the situation much clearer. As it stands, the only way that cohabiting couples can protect themselves is to draw up a cohabitation agreement at the start of their relationship or when they buy property together, or use property law to fight for their assets in court."

  • Cohabitation News from Lawpack: Find out more about your cohabiting rights with our expert guide Living Together - An Essential Legal Guide

Published on: September 9, 2011

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