Many people in England and Wales believe in a ‘common law marriage‘. This suggests that they believe that just because you are essentially living ‘as man and wife’ you assume the rights afforded to married couples. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a ‘common law marriage’, meaning that cohabiting couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples. For example, if a cohabitee was to die without a will, their partner would not automatically be entitled to their assets (unless they were jointly owned). Similarly, a cohabiting father would not have the same automatic parental responsibility rights as a father married to their child’s mother.
What Can I Do to Protect My Rights?
• Ensure that assets utilised by both of you, such as bank accounts, properties and cars, are held in joint names. This means that both parties will have an interest in the asset should the relationship break down or one person die.
• Enter into Cohabitation Agreement. This agreement sets out the nature of your financial relationship and establishes your rights should that relationship break down.
• If you wish to pass assets to your partner on your death, make sure that you a Will in place. Your Cohabitation Agreement and Will should be regularly reviewed to ensure that they appropriately address your wishes and deal with all of your assets.