You've been seeing each other for a while, things are going great and you've started looking for a place together. One of you may even own or rent somewhere already. If you move in together, surely the law will protect you and your belongings if things go wrong? Maybe not...
As "co-habitants" - ie people living together - you don't fit easily into the legal system. Before buying that dream place together it is important to understand that living together does not give you legal rights over each other. Sheds WarringtonIf this is what you would like, then a Civil Partnership may be the way forward.
No matter how long your relationship, the law still effectively treats you as separate individuals with no rights or ties to each other if your relationship comes to an end. Unfortunately, this is not always something people become aware of until the relationship is over.
Buying a house is probably one of the most significant investments you will ever make. If you buy with a partner you will need to decide in advance how you are going to hold the property. The options are
o "joint tenants" holding an equal share of the property; if one of you dies, the other inherits your share
o "tenants in common" owned in shares, which is stated when purchased, for example, 70:30. If you die, then your share passes according to your Will, not necessarily to the other owner.
You should agree on these issues before the property is purchased.
It is easy to get caught up in a new relationship or the excitement of buying your first place together. But you should make sure you are protecting your financial future as you run headlong into a new emotional one. Although things may be going well at present, no one can predict the future. A "Living Together Agreement" is a great way of setting out your legal position and wishes for the future, in the event that things go wrong. Your solicitor can record what has been agreed and it will be drawn up as a "Deed", which acts as a formal legal document, a contract between you both.
If you ever split up, the agreement can be referred to and will serve as proof as to what was agreed. This avoids unnecessary disputes, which are generally messy and expensive. Yes, I know it all sounds very unromantic and calculated, but the preparation of these types of agreements is very common in today's society, not as common unfortunately as the number of break-ups however.
What can be recorded in these agreements? Absolutely anything you wish. It is sensible to cover the obvious, such as who will pay for what, and what should happen to the property. You may also wish to include a detailed list of items, and how they should be divided up. Generally, the more detailed the agreement, the better it is. Plenty of detail will ensure that every eventuality is covered, and shows that each of you has given the matter serious consideration. Once the agreement has been drawn up, ideally both parties should take legal advice to ensure that it meets their requirements.
I strongly recommend that any Agreement is regularly reviewed every couple of years. A change of house or job may mean that your financial position has changed. Your Living Together Agreement can easily be amended, or re-written by your solicitor.
A Living Together Agreement is relatively inexpensive, and will avoid the need for drawn out negotiation and a big legal bill in the event that things go wrong between you both.