30 November 2017

Myth four: Cohabitation rights and jointly owned property - My children will benefit

Harriet Barber
Associate | UK

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We are not married, our property is in joint names but I want my children from a previous relationship to have my share when I die, I've put that in my will so I am sure it's fine?

It is really important to find out how you and your partner own the property. There are two different ways to share it: as tenants in common or as joint tenants. If you are not sure, then the solicitors who acted in the purchase will be able to tell you, or you can contact the Land Registry.

Tenants in common means that you each own a specific share and that share is entirely yours. The shares do not have to be equal but they must be defined. If you are joint tenants then you both own the whole property equally. There are no defined shares.

What happens when I die?

This distinction is crucial when it comes to what happens on death. As tenants in common you can leave your share to someone in your will. However, as joint tenants when one of you dies the other become the sole owner of the whole property regardless of what your will says.

This is particularly important for those who bought a property together but have since separated. In those circumstances it is unlikely that you would wish your former partner to inherit your share. To protect your position you need to severe your joint tenancy and create a tenancy in common.

Cohabiting rights to assets if my partner dies?

This is another area where cohabitants are often left vulnerable. Cohabitants do not have an automatic entitlement to share in their partner's estate on death. If someone dies without a will (intestate) there are rules that determine who will inherit their assets. Cohabitants are not included in these rules. They are left in the position of having to make an (often expensive) application to the court showing that they were either cohabiting for at least two years before the death or were financially dependent on the deceased before they died. It is then for the court to decide what they should receive. That is why it is so important that cohabiting couples create valid wills.

Cohabitation agreements

Click here for more information about family law and cohabitation questions.

Get in touch

If you would like to speak to us about child maintenance claims or any other matter, please get in touch on the number below:

t +44 20 7597 6364

Harriet Barber Associate | London

Category: Article

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