Tops legal tips for living together

Relationships can be so tricky to negotiate. This is especially true if you are looking for love the second time round. You will be older and wiser and perhaps left a little emotionally bruised from your past experiences.

When you find your perfect partner and want to take that important next step of moving in together it is important that you have that money conversation. It’s not romantic but it will give you both peace of mind and set out your ground rules.

Warning – the law does not protect cohabiting couples

Many couples think that when they are living together for a longish period of time, they acquire legal rights that will protect them if their relationship should break down. That’s just not the case. While laws vary around the world, unmarried couples who live together in the UK never get the same rights as married couples. This is why it is so important to put things in writing.

Here are some top legal tips if you are ready to move on from just dating to that exciting first step of commitment that comes with cohabitation:

1. Consider a cohabitation agreement

A cohabitation agreement will set out what should happen to your money and assets if you do end up going your separate ways at some point in the future. It will protect any future inheritance you might receive and it can make provision for any children that you might have together or children from past relationships.

2. Put a trust deed in place

As an absolute minimum put a trust deed in place if you decide to buy a house or flat together. This will set out what each of your shares are, what your future financial contributions will be and how your money will be divvied up if and when you sell the house.

3. Know the difference between joint tenants and tenants in common

Swot up on the difference between joint tenants and tenants in common (nothing to do with tenants!!) Make sure that the solicitor or conveyancer that you appoint to deal with the purchase of your home knows how you want to hold that property jointly. A tenancy in common will define your shares in the property and set out any unequal financial contributions that you both made to buy the property. The details of those contributions should be recorded on the property forms that you will both have to sign. If you hold the property as joint tenants your shares in your home will not be defined. In the event of your death before your partner, the property will pass automatically to your partner. If you have children of a previous relationship or marriage this may not be what you want.

4. Give your property lawyer clear instruction

Give clear instructions to your property lawyer when buying your joint home. It’s really important that you tell your conveyancing solicitor if you and your partner made unequal financial contributions to the price of your property if you want your shares protected. Don’t assume that he or she will just know. Also keep a record of your financial contributions in case you need to produce that information at some point in the future.

5. Make a Will

This is so important especially if you have children. You will need to set out in your Will who should inherit your share in your home. This is also important if you and your partner would like your children to inherit your shares in your jointly owned property but you want to ensure that your partner can continue to live in your shared home in the event of your death for a period of time or for as long as they like after you are gone.

6. Sit back and enjoy!

And finally, when you have put your house in order (literally and metaphorically!) sit back and enjoy the love of your life. You will have worked hard to get to this point because relationships are hard work. They require negotiation and compromise. Well done you for taking the plunge and committing to sharing your home and your life. Cohabitation takes courage and conviction.


If you need any more advice and guidance on any of the above, do get in touch with Saika Alam. Saika is a well-respected family and divorce lawyer based in Mayfair, London. Known for her personal and pragmatic approach, Saika represents her clients on all aspects of their family relationships from cohabitation and marriage to separation and divorce and everything in between, whether that relates to financial matters or children’s issues.