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Uncovering the myth – common-law marriage

Time to make a will?

The number of cohabiting couples in the UK is on the rise, with an estimated 3.3 million couples living together who are not married or in a civil partnership. It’s a common misconception that if you live with your partner for a couple of years, you are afforded the same legal and financial rights as couples living together who are married or in a civil partnership.

Confusion surrounding the concept of common-law marriage still exists. However, in reality, couples living together have hardly any rights automatically. In fact, your financial affairs need more careful planning to make sure your family is protected. Where there’s a Will there’s a way Making a Will is vital for unmarried couples because cohabiting partners have no automatic right to inherit if their partner dies. Making a valid Will helps to ensure that assets go to those you wish to receive them. Under the laws of intestacy (not identical across the UK), the unmarried partner is only entitled to jointly owned assets if their partner dies. If you have children together, the estate of the deceased partner will pass to them when they are 18. If there are more than two children, they will each inherit the same amount.

This rule applies regardless of whether they are children of the existing marriage/civil partnership. If there are no children, the estate will go to the deceased partner’s closest relatives, not to the surviving partner. Insure to ensure Taking steps to protect your finances should also be a priority for cohabiting couples. A life insurance policy provides a valuable safety net and would help your loved ones maintain their lifestyle if you were to die. Take the time to calculate how much money your family would need if they lost your financial support, including paying off the mortgage, covering regular household bills and clearing debts.

So, if you are cohabiting, no matter how long you live together, moving in doesn’t give you automatic rights to each other's property, or entitle you to inherit, leading to potentially catastrophic consequences for a surviving partner.