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Cohabiting Couples

Did you know that couples living together without getting married or entering into a civil partnership has increased from about 1.5 million to 3.6 million in the last twenty five years? Unfortunately, it does not mean the legal system has adapted and modernised to society at the same rate. Being an unmarried couple can put you at a disadvantage to a married couple or civil partners as far as inheritance is concerned.


Huge strides have been made to put same sex marriages and civil partnerships on the same ground as mixed sex marriage but this has just not happened with cohabitees and it is unlikely there will be any change soon.


So, what do you need to do if you cohabit.


  1. If you own a property with your partner make sure you have a cohabitation agreement which details who pays for what and who moves out if your relationship breaks down.

  2. Make sure you agree who owns Barnie the cocker spaniel. Do you really want shared custody of your dog, after all they are probably more important to you than your partner!

  3. Make sure you have a declaration of trust which records how much you put into the property you bought together. This will ensure you get your contribution back if everything goes wrong.

  4. Make a will. If you do not have a will the Rules of Intestacy will kick in. These are provisions, set down in law, which decide who has what on death if you do not have a will. A cohabitee does not receive anything under these provisions. I can hear you shouting at me now saying that all jointly held assets will pass to them as the co-owner. This is correct, but there may be significant assets which are not held in this way.

Whatever you do, don't rely on the advice you received in the pub about what you inherit as common law husband and wife because it doesn't make the slightest difference. Many people think that a common law husband and wife is a legal thing. I am sorry to disappoint you but it simply does not exist as far as the law is concerned and it will not matter how many years you have lived together if your partner dies. There is no automatic acquisition of property , pensions, maintenance or other assets.


If you are cohabiting with your partner doing nothing is really not an option. It is more important for you that you take steps to secure your interest and to protect not just your position but that of your children.


Our team at Argo are experienced in advising cohabiting couples and would love to help you to plan and secure your future. If you are not sure where to start why not take advantage of our 15 minute first aid telephone call so we can talk through your worries and concerns. We can book a time which suits you when you can grab a cup of tea and a note pad!




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