Setting up Home
Moving in with your partner or buying a house together can seem like an exciting prospect. But few couples realise how risky their situation can be from a legal point of view. It may seem outdated, but unmarried couples are not protected by law in the same way that married couples are. Sadly, by the time people realise this, it is often too late – the relationship breaks down or a partner dies, and valuable rights can be lost.
It is well worth taking legal advice to find out:
what rights you do have;
where you and your partner stand in all situations;
what you can do to make your position more secure.
We will need a thorough briefing on your circumstances, including:
- details of the history of your relationship;
- a list of your assets and those of your partner;
- if you own your home, what its value is and whose name it is owned in;
- contributions you and your partner have made to the value of the home (including work on the property);
- the value of any other assets;
- your earnings and those of your partner; and
- whether you or your partner have any children.
We will then explain your rights. They will highlight the circumstances where you or your share of the home could be at risk and will tell you what action to consider taking to avoid this. Remember that we can only act for one partner at a time. We cannot act for both of you even if you both want this.
Here are some of the main areas of law that we will cover with you.
If you move in with someone and the house is only in their name, usually you have no right to the proceeds from selling the house. This applies unless you can prove that you have:
contributed to the deposit for the house or the mortgage payments; or paid for or done major work to the house.
Also, if the house is not both your names, you have no right to inherit the house if your partner dies unless they have put this in their will. If they do not leave a will, you may need to make a claim against your partner’s estate through the court. We may recommend that the house is transferred from your partner’s name into your joint names, either as ‘joint tenants’ or ‘tenants in common’. If you own as joint tenants with your partner, you are usually entitled to 50% of the money if you sell the property. And if one of you dies, the other automatically inherits the property, regardless of what is set out in your wills. However, if you own as tenants in common, you have a right to your own share of the property but no more. By owning as tenants in common you can formally agree exactly what share of the property you each own by getting us to draw up a ‘deed of trust’. This can prevent disagreements later. If either of you wants to leave your share of the property to the other when you die, this needs to be set out in a will.
If you are renting together, it is a good idea to have the tenancy agreement in both your names.
If you have children with your partner, you need to think about what the child will be called and how to register their birth. It is up to you and your partner what surname you choose for your child, and you can register the child’s birth jointly. Under the law, if you and your partner are not married or child’s fathers name is not mentioned on the birth certificate , only the mother of the child has automatic parental responsibility for the child. However, we can check to find out whether this applies to you. If you live with someone who has a child from another relationship, the law gives you no parental responsibility at all. We can explain what this means to you.
If your partner is ill or dies, you may not be considered as their ‘next-of-kin’ for medical purposes unless you and your partner make a written agreement beforehand. We can help you with this agreement.
If you and your partner have separate bank accounts, you cannot have access to money in your partner’s account. If your partner dies, the money in their account will become part of their estate. This means that you will not automatically inherit the money unless this is what it says in their will. One solution to this is to have a joint bank account. Then if your partner dies, the whole account will immediately become your property.
You and your partner will not have the same tax benefits as a married couple, especially relating to capital gains tax and inheritance tax. Unlike married couples, you may have to pay tax if you want to give major assets to your partner. Pension schemes If you die, your state pension is not automatically passed on to your partner. Different rules apply to company and private pensions. We shall look at these carefully to see exactly what level of pension you and your partner have.
A will is a useful way of setting out what property and assets belong to you as opposed to your partner. Unless you make a will, your partner will have no automatic right to a share of your assets if you die, so it is essential to have one if you want your partner or their children to inherit.
These are a relatively recent idea, but they are slowly gaining recognition as a way of securing a couple’s financial and other arrangements. They set out, in advance, what each member of the couple expects of the other, both during the relationship and if they separate or one of them dies. They are ‘honourable agreements’, which means that not all clauses can be enforced by the courts. But they do serve to limit disagreements and certainly provide some peace of mind. You and your partner should both take separate legal advice before signing such an agreement.
Sadly, most couples don’t take legal advice until the relationship fails, a partner dies or there is some other crisis. It is rarely as easy to solve a problem at this stage, but we will have the knowledge and experience to protect your interests.
Whether it is a defended divorce, a complicated custody battle or a dispute over finances we will help find the best solution for you within the law.
We offer an initial consultation which is free of charge. It is aimed at understanding the nature of your problem and assessing whether (and how) we may be able to assist. If we agree to deal with your case, we shall discuss the basis for calculating our charges for further advice.
Charges can depend on:
the type of service provided;
whether any agreements need to be drawn up.
Whenever possible, we shall discuss with you the basis for our charges and provide you with an estimate of likely costs for the relevant work to be carried out.
Please call us on 02085742488 to Discuss your matter further
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