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Living Together and your rights if you separate

It is important to understand that living together does not give you a legal right over each other or legal duties and responsibilities to each other. The idea of a “Common Law Marriage” or “Common Law Wife” is a myth.

Setting up home

If you sort out your legal position properly when you start living together it helps address the difficulties that you might encounter if you separate. You need to choose whether you are going to hold the property as either:

A) Joint tenancy - you each own an equal share in the property. Holding a property with another under a joint tenancy means you cannot leave your share in the property to someone else in your Will (if you have one) or ensure that it passes to your next of kin (if no Will exists), as the surviving joint owner will automatically receive the deceased’s share of the property and acquire the whole property.

B) Tenancy in common - you own the property in shares and you can state how much you each hold when you buy the property. If you do not specifically state your ownership then the law says that the shares are equal. The shares are separate so in the event of death your share will pass either to the beneficiary appointed in your Will or to your next of kin if no will exists.

Moving into property owned by your partner

If you move into your partner’s property it does not give you any right in it. However you may acquire rights if you and your partner make an agreement that you should share the ownership or you may acquire rights through “contributions” that you make towards certain financial commitments such as the monthly mortgage payment.

If you and your partner are considering living together, particularly in a property owned by one of you then Gaynham King & Mellor Solicitors recommend that you negotiate and enter into a Co-habitation Agreement prior to co-habitation, and have that agreement negotiated, drawn up and executed through your respective Solicitors.

If you or your partner dies

Unmarried partners do not automatically inherit from each other in the way that married couples do. If you die intestate (i.e. without a Will) your property will go to any children you have, and in the absence of children to other blood related family members. It is therefore extremely important for you and your partner to make Wills, particularly when you own the home as tenants in common.

If your partner has died without a Will and you are not provided for then you may still be able to make a claim against the estate. If this applies to you then you should seek immediate legal advice from one of our experienced Specialist Solicitors.

Tax matters

There are no tax concessions for unmarried couples. Upon separation or death capital gains tax or inheritance tax may become relevant, particularly if you and your partner plan to transfer assets between you. If this applies to you then Gaynham King & Mellor recommend that you seek advice from one of our Specialist Solicitors.

If you are separating

We would recommend that you obtain specialist advice from a Family Law Solicitor if you are considering separation from your partner.

At Gaynham, King & Mellor we have a wealth of experience in dealing with co-habitation issues and all of our solicitors are experienced Family Law practitioners whose expertise has been recognised either through the acquisition of accredited specialist status with the UK’s leading family law group – Resolution or through membership of the Law Society’s specialist Family Law and Children Law panels.


Penrith Office

Emma Ferson -

Julia King -

Mark Graham -

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