Legal protection for cohabiting couples

8th March 2015 by


In October 2012, the Inheritance (Cohabitants) Bill, a private member’s bill sponsored by Lord Lester of Herne Hill, had its second reading in the House of Lords.

The bill proposed that the law should be changed to protect the rights of cohabitants and their children, in much the same way as married spouses, when a partner dies.

In the same month, a survey of family lawyers revealed that top of the wish list for legislative change among family lawyers would be greater legal protection for co-habiting couples.

However, many family solicitors across the country believed that without support from the government, the bill would not progress and the rules regarding intestacy (dying without a will) would remain discriminatory against couples who have chosen to remain unmarried.

Healys family lawyers in Brighton and London can advise on all aspects of legal rights for cohabiting couples and, as a full service legal firm, can draw upon the knowledge and expertise of other departments. Hence, our wills and estate planning solicitors can advise on the best course of action for cohabitants to protect their assets and to ensure the distribution of their estate will be in accordance with their wishes upon death.

Further, our residential property solicitors can help advise on the drafting of appropriate legal documentation when a cohabiting couple buys a property together, so as to protect both parties rights in the event that the relationship breaks down.

For some couples, particularly those with individual wealth, business interests or substantial assets, it may be appropriate to draw up a living together agreement (LTA). A well-drafted LTA would provide guidance to a court if a couple split up and could not agree on how their assets should be distributed. Where a couple have received independent legal advice and the LTA has been drawn up so as to protect both parties and not to disadvantage either party or any dependents, a court may use the agreement to help decide a fair distribution of family wealth.

Cohabiting couples are strongly advised to make individual wills, as current intestacy laws (October 2012) do not automatically recognise a cohabiting partner as the automatic inheritor of their partner’s estate. This can cause considerable heartache and stress as, on occasion, an estate will go to parents of the deceased against the deceased person’s wishes.

The only way to prevent such an occurrence is to ensure both parties to the relationship have made wills and that they are kept up to date.

Healys family lawyers can help

If you wish to find out more about how Healys family lawyers in Brighton and London could help you safeguard your financial future in the event of relationship breakdown or unexpected death, then please call our offices today.

We understand that each set of circumstances is unique and believe that by listening closely to your thoughts and wishes we can help you achieve the legal protection you require in all matters relating to family law. We are also happy to advise in matters relating to property law and wills and estate planning.

Healys LLP, we are here to help.