Should Cohabitation And Legal Rights Go Hand In Hand?

The myth of common law marriage has been around for so long and many people still believe that if you live with someone for a period of time that you obtain similar rights to those of a married couple.

Even though this is absolutely untrue, a recent YouGov survey demonstrates that there is a real lack of knowledge and understanding around the legal rights of a cohabiting couple.

Nearly half of the people surveyed (2,000) thought that a cohabiting couple had the same rights as a married one and well over a quarter thought they were given some of those rights. Additionally, the survey has identified that more women than men had these wrong ideas in place about cohabitation.

What many people fail to realise is that a cohabiting couple has no legal rights, even when they have lived together for 40 years. If one of them died after buying a home together and left no Will, the other person would have no legal entitlement to any of their estate under the laws of intestacy.

In addition, the disparity does not just occur when there is a death. If a cohabiting couple splits up and they have children, there is often a poor one-off financial settlement made that does have a negative impact on the children of these families. In fact, many unmarried parents are completely unaware that they can make a request for financial support through the Children Act on top of the child maintenance they are paid. This is demonstrated by the fact that only 407 awards have been made in the last 4 years.

Politicians are picking up the issues of cohabitation rights, with a Bill being raised in the House of Lords on this very issue. There is wide spread support for the Bill, but some argue that if a couple wants the same rights as a married couple, they should just get married and there is no need to amend the law.

It does remain unclear how these rights would be implemented and how long you would need to cohabit before these rights came into force, but no doubt this is a story that will continue to divide opinion.

This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitors before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.

Shak Inayat
Solicitors
0207 183 2898

Challenging A Will

It can be an emotional time for everyone involved when you lose a family member or loved one and this becomes even more highly charged once the Will is read and you feel that you have been unfairly excluded.

There may be a number of reasons for this exclusion but if there is no explanation in the Will, you may never know. You should give some thought to making a challenge to the Will if you think you have the legal grounds to do so.

To challenge or content a Will you need to show one or more of the following reasons:

  • There was a lack of capacity to make the Will
  • The Will is invalid due to errors in drafting
  • The Will was made without the express knowledge or agreement of the testator (person making the Will)
  • Pressure or influence was put on the person to make or change their Will
  • It was fraudulently made or forged
  • It was drafted negligently and needs rectification
  • The Will used unclear or ambiguous wording that needs clarification

You should be aware that there are time limits in place and you have 12 years to challenge a Will from the date of death of your loved one. This excludes any challenge for fraud, where there is no time limit.

In addition to these ways to contest a Will, if you are a dependant who has been excluded from a Will or you have not been adequately provided for in the Will, you can make a claim against the estate under the Inheritance Act. This can only be successful if the estate has enough money to provide for you under the terms of this Act.

You only have 6 months from the date probate is granted to make a claim under the Inheritance Act, so it is important you speak to a specialist solicitor as soon as you can.

Finally, there will be an emotional impact if you do decide to contest a Will, it may cause serious rifts in your family that can never be healed, so you should think carefully before you make that decision.

This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitors before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.

Shak Inayat
Solicitors
0207 183 2898