You may have often heard the term common-law wife/husband. On many occasions, I have been asked to advise on the legal rights of common-law husbands and wives. However, this term is not recognised in the law. Fortunately, the law does contain a range of protections and legal remedies for cohabiting couples, engaged couples and married couples.
This article focuses on the rights of cohabiting couples and engaged couples to make financial claims against either on separation or in the event of the other party’s death.
If you are living with another person or are financially dependent upon then, you may be able to make a claim against their estate on their death. A claim could be made even if you they have made a Will and have not made any gifts to you in that Will. Claims can also be made on behalf of any biological or adopted children.
Unfortunately, relationships don’t always last. If your relationship breaks down and you are not married, you may be concerned about your financial situation. Where will you live? How will you afford to move on? What rights do you have? In many cases, the property in which you lived with your former partner will be in his or her sole name.
Even if your home is owned solely by your former partner, you may be entitled to a share if you fall into one of the following categories:
- You were engaged and you contributed to the property financially or by undertaking home improvements
- You entered into a Declaration of Trust or Cohabitation Agreement with your partner setting out your shares in the property
- You agreed with your partner that you would own a share in the property and you acted to your financial disadvantage based upon that agreement
Claims can be brought under the Trusts of Land and Appointments of Trustees Act 1996 or the Married Women’s Property Act 1882. It is important to seek independent legal advice at an early stage. This is because some laws have strict time limits in which you can make a claim.
Written by Beverley Gent, Senior Chartered Legal Executive
Get in touch today to speak to one of our specialist divorce and cohabitation solicitors on 01329 822 333.