Advice to unmarried couples living together

Posted on: November 1st, 2022

Following recent advice urging unmarried couples to have a Will or civil partnership in place in order to lawfully inherit their partner’s assets, many couples across Teesside have been left wondering what to do next. In fact, some are at risk of losing assets that they assumed they would inherit, if their partner was to pass away.

This is a growing challenge for many, with marriage rates in decline* as more and more couples choose to live together, rather than marry.

And from making a Will, to having a cohabitation agreement drawn up, it’s difficult to know exactly what is needed to ensure that you are protected in the event of a loved one passing.


With this in mind, our Chloe Million, trainee solicitor, has shared her advice on what you need to know if you are an unmarried couple living together.


We live together and are not married, should I be concerned? 

The law does not provide for unmarried couples in the same way that it does for married couples – which is particularly important when it comes to estate planning and Wills. If an unmarried partner passes away without a Will, their estate (possessions, money and property) does not automatically pass to their partner, regardless of if they have been in a long-term relationship, have children or own property together.

This doesn’t mean you need to tie the knot, there are plenty of other arrangements you can put in place to manage assets when you pass away.


What can protect me?

Having a Will ensures that your estate goes to your loved ones when you pass away. This is even more vital when you wish for your estate to pass to an unmarried partner, as legally they are not automatically entitled to it in the event of your death.

When it comes to a house that you both live in, it depends whether you own this as tenants in common or joint tenants. If you own your property as tenants in common, and your unmarried partner passes away, their share of the property could pass to a relative of theirs. Of course, if this relative then wishes to sell their share of the property you could end up in a very difficult position.


Considering A Civil Partnership?

Marriage isn’t for everyone, so some couple consider a Civil Partnership instead.

If you are considering entering into a Civil Partnership, a Pre-Civil Partnership agreement may be a good place to start. This agreement is drawn up before the Civil Partnership registration and sets out what each person would like to happen to their assets if someone passes away, or the Partnership is dissolved.


What’s a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Cohabitation Agreement is a legally binding agreement that allows unmarried couples to set out arrangements for finances, property and children whilst they are living together, in the event that they separate or one of them dies. Agreements can also include how you would wish for other assets to be divided, including pensions and savings.

It’s worth considering setting up an agreement before living together, to protect your interests from the outset. This could be done in addition to a Will.


Unmarried With Children – What Does This Mean For Us?

Often if an unmarried couple has children together, they believe that they will be more secure in the event of one of them passing away.  However, having children together makes little difference when it comes to lawfully inheriting a partner’s assets.

If your partner owns your home, for example, it may be the case that you have no legal right to remain in the property should they pass away. If you have children together, the court may look to act in the best interests of the children, and let you remain living in the property with the children. However, this is often only a temporary measure, leaving you with little security for the future.


We are offering a specialist walk-in advice clinics at our Portland House, Redcar office throughout November.  Couples can drop in and talk to an expert, for free, every Thursday between 1.30pm and 4pm.



Talk to the experts

If you require any of our legal services or you're not sure where to get started, please contact us at our Redcar High Street office and our solicitors will guide you every step of the way.

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