Common law marriage doesn’t really exist. At most it means that a couple represent themselves to the world as married, but this in itself no longer has any legal consequences.
The myth seems, nevertheless, to be a very persistent one. We frequently encounter people who are quite convinced that the fact they have been together a long time necessarily means they have ‘rights’.
In fact property rights will derive from ownership and contract, and the application of the law of trusts. The couple enjoy no automatic rights under the intestacy rules, or to challenge the provision in the will if one dies.
A FEW POINTS TO THINK ABOUT
When buying a property sort out individual shares and responsibility for mortgage payments and other outgoings, and what will happen if the relationship ends. These understandings should be recorded in a trust deed. You can agree what will happen if the relationship ends and one party wants to keep the house, by including a formula allowing the departing owner to be bought out.
Do not own property jointly unless you really want the survivor to automatically end up with everything.
If you own a property but have not addressed these points it is not too late to do something about it. It will be too late if one of you dies or you split up on bad terms.
Do not assume that you partner will inherit from you when you die. Equally, if you think you partner will have adequate resources you can take steps to reduce the likelihood of a claim on your estate.
If you would like any assistance with any of these issues, or know of someone who would, we would be pleased to hear from you.
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T: 01795 5333337
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