How and why cohabiting couples should protect themselves

It is by no means uncommon for couples to cohabit rather than marry. In fact, the majority of couples now choose to cohabit before marrying and many go on to have kids and buy a house, postponing the expensive and seemingly pointless wedding while life takes over. All the time everything is going well, this situation works. However, life is not always easy and many cohabiting couples can find themselves completely unprotected by the law.

When you cohabit you are not legally protected in the same way as when you are married. It doesn’t matter how long you have lived together or how many children you have together; the law won’t see you as family.

This can come as a very unpleasant shock to cohabiting couples when things go wrong. From homeownership to splitting up, or when the worst happen and someone dies, people find themselves woefully unprotected.

However, for many reasons some couples don’t want to tie the knot, whether this is due to previous bad experiences or just against the whole idea of signing the paperwork. If you are currently cohabiting with someone whom you consider to be your life partner, then there are some steps you can take to protect your family and your finances if life doesn’t go the way you hoped.

Property

Before you buy anywhere together, see your solicitor and ensure you sign a cohabitation agreement that outlines exactly what will happen if you split, or if one of you should pass away. A solicitor will be able to put together a legal document for a small fee, any agreements you make between yourselves may not be recognised in court without the involvement of a solicitor.

Life insurance

Life insurance is a very small monthly amount, but will ensure your other half can continue to live in the family home and have enough to put your children through education should something happen to you.

Write a will

Having a will makes a huge difference for cohabiting couples. Without a will your partner may be left with nothing and your legal next of kin may not look after them. A will doesn’t need to be a complicated or expensive document – you can even buy ‘DIY will kits’ for around £20. However, if you own property, or a business or have children then it is worth seeing a solicitor to ensure your will is legally binding and your partner will inherit everything that you want them to.