Do I need a cohabitation agreement?

September 07, 2015  |   Posted by :   |   Blog

If you live with your partner, are unmarried, and want to have financial stability in the (hopefully unlikely) event that the relationship comes to an end, then the answer is a resounding YES! A cohabitation agreement provides you with a legally binding set of provisions detailing what each of you has contributed to the relationship, and a framework for how you would divide your assets should you go your separate ways. Unfortunately, cohabiting couples are not awarded the same legal rights as married couples, or couples in civil partnerships, so having a legal contract in place ensures that you don’t end up high and dry, or fighting through a lengthy court process to claim what you’re entitled to.

What does a cohabitation agreement cover?

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding document, very much like a prenuptial agreement. It might include:

  • Intentions for your ongoing relationship, such as how you will divide up household responsibilities and bills;
  • What you expect from each other as cohabitants;
  • Details of joint savings and investments, such as how much each of you have contributed, and what share each of you hold;
  • If you have children, you may wish to document your intentions for childcare and maintenance in the event of separation;
  • Information on assets and property, including how you would divide your estate during separation – this is particularly important in the case of property, where one of you may have invested more than the other;
  • What rights (if any) you wish to attribute to your partner for any inheritance or pensions;
  • Anything other assets or high value items you would need to consider if you went your separate ways – even pets! You don’t want to be arguing about who gets to keep the dog while you’re going through the process of separation…

Cohabitation agreements can be particularly reassuring for people who have already been through a tough divorce or break-up – they needn’t take all the romance out of moving in with each other – in fact, setting some ground rules may even help to cement your relationship and make you feel secure in your future together. 

And, of course, you don’t have to be a couple to make use of a cohabitation agreement – friends who live together or buy property together can benefit from legal protection too! You may find that you end up going your separate ways in the future, and a ‘living together agreement’ will take the sting out of any disagreements over property, assets and possessions. If you don’t have a cohabitation agreement and need to resolve property disputes, a Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees act claim (TOLATA) will be required if you wish to claim your fair share of money from a property.

You will need an experienced family lawyer to assist you in drawing up a cohabitation agreement, and it’s a good idea to update your will while you’re at it, as intestacy laws do not automatically cover cohabiting couples. To speak to a friendly solicitor about making a cohabitation agreement, a Declaration of Trust, or TOLATA claim, contact Frances Lindsay & Co in Maidenhead and Beaconsfield.

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