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Cohabitation or marriage/civil partnership?

For many couples living together has become one of the first steps towards a committed relationship, many choose to settle with just that.  Others don’t get round to organising the wedding they fantasied about or can’t decide between marriage or a civil partnership. This can lead to a set of arrangements we call ‘cohabitation’.

With marriage and civil partnerships the legalities are all taken care of.  Couples can cherish the memories created from their ceremony, with the reassurance that the legal aspects are covered.

Unfortunately, not all marriages and civil partnerships have a fairy-tale ending, if the relationship does come to an end they are protected by a blanket of rights and procedures. However, this isn’t the case when cohabiting.

What steps should you take if cohabiting?

When there is no marriage or civil partnership, there is no legal presumption to fill the gaps.  But there are ways for a couple to create their own ‘blanket of rights’.

This could be done either narrowly, just to cover a specific asset, or more broadly, to create a conclusive record of what they would want if they were separated - whether in life or in death - or if their circumstances changed beyond recognition. There are examples of these above.  Others include making a cohabitation agreement (broad), or a declaration of trust (narrow).

More inventive and more tailored agreements can be drawn up where property is involved; a right of residence, a licence, a lease-back, a deed of trust, a charge.  Each is tailored to the couple’s image of how much in life they want to provide for and how much they are willing to leave to chance.

Couples who ‘just’ live together must avoid staying silent and avoiding the subject, putting things off are not viable options for cohabiting couples.

Completing any of the formal steps mentioned here is one that helps to fill the legal gap making couples who live together just as equal to those who are married or in a civil partnership.  Each step is a recognition that peace of mind, and peace in relationships for the long term, it is helped usually by open conversations and by the humble human act of providing for every eventuality.

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