It’s official; statistics reveal that marriage is on the decline, with more people choosing to live together. In my last blog I spoke of the differences between the rights of married and unmarried couples on separation. In a series of blogs, I’ll be discussing how an unmarried person can protect their assets or protect and pursue their claims to a former partner’s assets on separation.
Beginning with those who are in a happy unmarried relationship and planning their future with their partner, there are some important safeguards to bear in mind:
- If your partner has a failed marriage behind them, check that they have dealt with finances and secured a ‘clean break’. Cohabitees often suffer because their partner hasn’t dealt with past marital issues.
- Consider a Cohabitation Agreement showing how you would wish to divide property, money, household contents and finances like child maintenance if you separate. How much will be paid and by whom? Will the property be sold? Doing this now could save a lot of aggravation later.
- When you purchase a property in joint names make sure you record your shares in the title documents ideally with a separate written agreement.
- If your partner buys a property but you agree that it is for both of you (it happens a lot), get this agreement in writing and witnessed – especially if you made or will make contributions in money or money’s worth to buy or improve it. A written agreement is very hard to challenge later. Oral promises are easily ‘forgotten’.
- If you didn’t record your shares in property or if your partner owns it and you have already made a contribution, it isn’t too late to protect your position. Consider asking your partner to document your shares or transfer it to you both now. If they agree but then make an excuse, keep the evidence. This has helped many clients of mine to prove an interest in property.
- If you work, keep your job for as long as you can because you can claim child maintenance (if you care for the children) but not spousal maintenance. You need to be independent if your unmarried relationship ends. If your partner wants you to be a stay-at-home parent that’s a huge commitment. Tell them to ‘put a ring on it’!
- Keep paying into a pension because you can’t claim any of your partner’s pension if you are unmarried and separate. If you stop paying, ask your working partner to keep paying into your pension pot. Keep the evidence that this is happening (it could come in handy later to show what you both intended to happen).
- Encourage your unmarried partner to make a will dealing with savings, joint property or their own property and be clear with them about their intentions. As a bereaved unmarried partner, you can find yourself dealing with unsympathetic family who are only interested in getting you out of the property so they can sell it.
- Encourage your partner to nominate you and your children to receive any death in service benefits for their pension scheme. This is particularly important if you are financially dependent on your partner. In these situations, former spouses and blood relatives can unexpectedly take priority over long term unmarried partners.
Next time I will look at the position of an unmarried person who fears separation and who owns none of the assets.
In the meantime, if you would like to discuss any of these issues, please contact me on 01392 421777.