Living Together Legal Planning Part 4

4) Living Together Common Law Marriage Does Not Exist.

Living together: a whole world of legal trouble and upset can face unmarried couples when one has an accident, gets seriously ill or dies. It is bad enough for unprepared married couples, but far worse for the unmarried. The main folk to benefit could be lawyers, rather than your other half.  A legacy of Court Battles and massive legal fees is not what most people would wish to leaved their loved ones.   Worse still, the battles will be against the legal family of those left behind (or their creditors.)   Please please please avoid this.                         Forward  Back

If there was once class of people we would really wish to protect, it would be those innocent folk who think common law marriage will protect them.
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We often have couples who have living together years coming to see us. Sometimes they have children, and/ or are in a committed relationship.  Others are just getting used to each other and proceeding with sensible caution, but wanting to ensure things remain fair whatever happens. Others can see the end coming and want it to be as amendable as possible.

Co-habitation agreements can be really helpful in setting the ground rules. But it is prudent for them to be reviewed probably once a year in the light of changing circumstances. Ideally they should be in place before you move in together, but that does not happen very often!

When setting up a cohabitation agreement, it is crucial for both sides to have legal advice to make sure that the agreement is fair. An agreement which reflects the wishes of one party over the other is unlikely to stand up in Court.

Consider the situation where one of you has an accident or a stroke, and ends up in hospital. Who do you wish to be consulted by doctors? They will habitually consult parents, who actually have no rights as such, and disregard unmarried partners. It is not unknown for parents or siblings to persuade staff to bar the partner from even seeing the person. With frozen joint bank accounts, life can become very hard even without such arguments.

The solution (as long as you are over 18) is for both of you to have both types of Lasting Power of Attorney in place, one to deal with doctors and welfare. The other to deal with finances
including avoiding joint accounts being frozen.Not to mention managing every day finances for the person in difficulty.

It make sense to be able to look after in case of difficulty, surely? Much better than leaving it to the Courts, which is the alternative.

Everyone dies.

And not always at the “right” time. So it makes sense to have carefully thought out Wills. These might be a little more complex than for straightforward couples if you wish to keep assets within “the family” initially. So it is a question of balancing needs and obligations, something we are well placed to advise on.

Without a Will, the Rules of Intestacy will come into play and may well provoke much bitterness and expensive Court action. Not the sort of legacy anyone wants to leave on top of those left grieving.

As ever, we offer our Peace of Mind Service to help you keep things up to date and relevant as circumstances change.

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