Setting up home with a partner – the legal advice couples need
Deciding to move in together is an exciting time. These days, many couples live together before they get married, or choose not to get married at all.
However, one of the most important things to be aware of is that, contrary to public opinion, ‘common law marriage’ doesn’t actually exist in UK law. This means unmarried couples don’t have the same rights as married couples, so there are a few points you need to think about before embarking on this big relationship step.
It’s good to talk about property and finances
You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable about discussing important matters with your partner; having clarity and certainty from the outset can help ensure the relationship is one of mutual trust.
Although we’d all like to hope that any relationship will be a long and happy one, couples moving in together need to safeguard their interests in case the relationship breaks down. They might want to think about entering into a cohabitation agreement covering how they would deal with things like property and finances in the event of a split.
Owning a home together
As a home can be a couple’s major asset, it’s important to get advice on legal arrangements covering the property you plan to share. You have various options open to you, such as putting the property in joint names, either as joint tenants or tenants in common. By owning the property as tenants in common, you can formally agree exactly what share of the property you each own, and this can be set out in a declaration of trust. This means that if your relationship doesn’t work out, then this legal document sets out what share of the sale proceeds each of you will be entitled to receive.
Many couples buying a property together nowadays rely on a loan from the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ or the ‘Bank of Granny and Grandad’. In that case, we’re asked to advise couples and their relatives on how each generation can safeguard their money and property interests.
Paying the bills
To avoid disputes about money, we recommend that you discuss beforehand how you will share your living costs, and suggest you think about opening a joint account from which the household bills can be paid. It’s also important to cover what would happen to any debts you may acquire, and who would be responsible for them if you split.
How our joined-up thinking works for you
Whilst we in the Residential Property team can offer you advice on a range of property issues relating to moving in together, depending on your circumstances, our colleagues in our Wills, Trusts and Probate team and our Family team can offer advice on other issues such as:
Children – If you have children together but aren’t married, you’ll need to decide on the child’s surname, who should register the birth, and be aware how shared parental responsibility operates. We can explain what your legal rights would be if your relationship comes to an end.
Wealth issues – In an era of ‘silver splitters’, more older people are setting up home with new partners. Getting appropriate legal advice in these circumstances is important, and we make couples aware of the legal position in regard to property they own, and other assets such as their pensions. In some cases, they might need to revisit their benefit nomination forms to ensure that on death any pension benefits they leave are distributed according to their wishes.
Wills – If you live together and you want your partner or your children to inherit, it’s important that each of you has a Will that makes your wishes known.
We can help you plan effectively for your future together
Increasingly, we’re finding that couples setting up home together are coming to us as we can give them access to a wide range of legal issues.
So, if you’d like some advice on property or any other legal aspect of moving in together, contact us on 0330 221 8855 or email enquiries.