Moving in Together
When two people are moving in together (or buying a house together) before marriage or a civil partnership, they are often unaware of the lack of legal protection they have, making any separations even worse for them. In order to protect you and your partner, you should look into the legal rights you have and what else you can do to guard against potential problems.
Unfortunately, many people only seek help from a solicitor once there is a big problem, which is always complicated to fix at that point. When you know you will be living together, you should talk to a solicitor, who will be able to explain everything to you and guide you through securing legal protection in case of a separation. They will need to know the details about a number of aspects, such as:
- Do either of you have children?
- Do either of you own the home? How much have you (both) invested into it?
- How much do you both earn?
- Information on the history of your relationship
- What assets do you both have, and what are their values?
Once the solicitor knows about your relationship, they can go through the main topics with you:
- Cohabitation contracts
- Owning the home
Unless you have a joint account, it is not possible for you to access your partner’s finances. If they die, their money will become part of their estate and therefore will be dealt out in a pre-determined way, so you might not receive their money. If your partner does die, you will not be their next-of-kin unless they have already stated otherwise.
If you have a child together in your relationship, its surname will need to be decided upon, and the birth can be jointly registered. If the father does not register, the mother has parental responsibility by law. A solicitor can help the father into a legal agreement stating that he shares responsibility, protecting the child further if the relationship ends.
Your solicitor can also provide information on the financial aid you can receive for your child if the relationship ends.
Although not all aspects of these contracts could be enforced in court, they allow couples to detail what is expected of each of them and help secure the finances and other aspects of their lives. Cohabitation contracts can cover the relationship and the time afterwards, if it ends. These contracts are becoming more common, and can aid with the rights you have if you become a widow.
Owning the home
When someone is the sole owner of a house, their partner has no legal right to any money from selling it, unless they can prove to have invested money into the property. Also, if the owner asks their partner to leave, they must comply.
For you to be able to inherit the house if your partner dies, they must have either stated this in their will, or you can try to claim for it through court (provided you had been living together for at least two years) when they die. However, there are other options below to consider for registering the house in both names, which your solicitor can expand on using their expertise.
The owner of a home can register their partner’s name as a joint tenant. This enables them to receive some of the money from a sale, and it also means that if either person dies, the widow will inherit the house, irrelevant of what is already stated in the will of the deceased. The solicitor will be able to explain this option to you, or they may recommend instead that you become tenants in common.
For tenants in common, an agreement is reached stating how much of the property you each own, and your solicitor can create a ‘deed of trust’ for you both to ensure everything is clarified. You cannot receive any more property than agreed, but if you want your partner to receive your share if you die, then your will needs to state this.
If you do not own a property, but instead rent a property together, ask for the tenancy agreement to be in the name of your partner and yourself.
A will is needed to ensure that if one of you dies, the widow (or children too) will receive certain assets, as detailed in your will. Otherwise, there is no guarantee that the widow will receive anything.