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According to the Office of National Statistics the number of people cohabiting in the UK has risen by 25.8% over the past decade, making it the fastest growing family type in the UK.
Unfortunately the law hasn’t yet caught up with the modern reality which is cohabitation, meaning that cohabitants are not afforded the same rights as married couples. This is the case regardless of the length of the relationship or whether the couple have children together.
What rights do cohabitants have upon separation?
When married couples separate, the court has the power to redistribute property and finances to ensure that both parties’ needs are met but it has no discretion to do so if a relationship between cohabitants breaks down. Instead, cohabitants are reliant on the complex principles of land and trust law to determine any dispute regarding ownership of property.
What can cohabitants do to protect themselves?
1. Enter into a Declaration of Trust to confirm how beneficial interests in jointly owned property are held.
2. Enter into a Cohabitation Agreement to record intentions as to how property and other assets are to be treated whilst living together and in the event of relationship breakdown.
3. Make a Will to ensure that their estate passes to who they wish. Unlike married couples, cohabiting couples are not automatically entitled to inherit their partner’s estate in the absence of a valid Will.