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Jackie Jessiman of Woodfines Solicitors in Cambridge offers advice to couples buying a home

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Jackie Jessiman
Jackie Jessiman

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If you live with a partner without marrying and the relationship breaks down, or one of you dies, you might think you have similar rights to married couples. You may even regard yourself as a common law husband or wife. However, this is incorrect.

A couple living together have very few rights that arise out of their relationship, including, for example, being unable to claim maintenance from one another.

If you intend to live in a property in your partner’s sole name or a property which is held in your joint names, you should seek advice regarding your rights on separation in relation to the property. How the property is owned, or contributed to financially, will have a great bearing on how it should be divided, and whether you automatically have a right to a share of it.

Sometimes, a court may decide upon ownership rights differently to a 50/50 split, simply because of what you agree or contribute during the time that you live together.

How to protect yourself on property purchase

If you purchase a property with someone else, you should make sure your respective beneficial interests are recorded on the deeds. In addition, it is also a good idea to enter into a separate Deed of Trust with the co-owner.

If you are not registered as a legal owner of a property but feel that you should have a beneficial interest, try to address the situation before it is too late. Ask the legal owner to enter you as a co-legal owner with an expressed beneficial interest. If this is not possible, for whatever reason, consider a Cohabitation Agreement which states what your beneficial interest in the property should be.

Cohabitation (Living Together) Agreements

To avoid uncertainty, you may wish to consider entering into a Cohabitation Agreement which is an enforceable contract setting out what you would both want to happen in the event of your separation. A Declaration of Trust with reference to shares in a property can be included in such an agreement.

Consider instructing a family lawyer at a much earlier point in your decision to move in together to avoid uncertainty later on.

For further advice and assistance in relation to issues regarding cohabitation and property related matters, please contact Jackie Jessiman at Cambridge-based Woodfines Solicitors’ on 01223 411421, or email homes@woodfines.co.uk.

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