Michael Gouriet and Joanna Lazarus explain the issues and what you can do to protect yourself.
Note: We have provided a transcript of the video if you are unable to listen to the audio. This transcript is generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers and may contain errors.
Michael Gouriet (00:10): Many people, including, according to recent surveys, the majority of those who live together outside of marriage, wrongly believe that if they've lived with somebody for a certain amount of time that automatically gives them financial rights. That is a complete myth.
Jo Lazarus (00:27): So if you are living together, or plan to live together, it's sensible to know what your legal rights are to ensure you can protect your future.
What are the issues couples need to consider?
Jo Lazarus (00:41): Talking about and planning for your future doesn't mean that you're expecting to split up, it's just a sensible way of entering such a huge commitment and to make sure you're best protected.
Michael Gouriet (00:52): The property in which you live is always going to be the biggest concern and unless you are clear from the outset about the way you co-own, co-tenant, or co-occupy your property then things can get really messy if the relationship hits the rocks. If your name isn't on the deeds and there's no clear evidence of any agreement between the two of you, then it's going to be very difficult to claim an interest in your home. It would be very unwise for someone to make a significant investment or financial contribution into the property that's owned by their partner, unless there's a very clear understanding between them as to what interest they may have in that home.
Jo Lazarus (01:37): And if you have or hope to have children together, consider what arrangements you want to put in place for their security as they grow up.
Avoid casual pillow talk
Michael Gouriet (01:52): Don't assume that just because you've had conversations everything's going to be fine. All too often, we see people who've lived their relationship on trust, and when their relationship's broken down that has turned out to be meaningless when it comes to any legal rights.
Jo Lazarus (02:10): But on the other side of the coin, be careful about making promises like 'what's mine is yours, darling' as that could be used as evidence of any agreement if you break up.
Michael Gouriet (02:21): And of course relationships are built on trust, and we all know that. It can be very difficult to bring this subject up. However, it is worth remembering that when things are rosy everything seems fine, but the situation and the picture can change very quickly when the relationship turns sour.
Jo Lazarus (02:40): If things are not set out in an agreement, you'll be relying on who said what and when, and if you end up in a dispute a judge will decide who's word is to be believed.
Michael Gouriet (02:51): Yes, and that can be very costly, but also very uncertain in terms of outcome. And therefore, it makes a lot of sense to have frank discussions at the outset so that you both know where you stand on this.
What can couples do to protect themselves?
Jo Lazarus (03:11): Well, here's the good news. In relation to the property, a simple declaration of trust is helpful because it sets out who put in what, both in terms of contributions to the initial purchase price and also any additional capital contributions.
Michael Gouriet (03:27): Yes, like renovations, and that's also the sort of thing that can be included in a cohabitation or living together agreement and it doesn't need to be a particularly complicated document, and can be produced quite easily. But it sets out really clearly the intentions about how you're going to own your home together, and who's going to pay for the household bills and how they're going to be arranged. And also, if the worst does come to the worst, the financial support you'd want to put in place for the children.
Jo Lazarus (03:59): We also really recommend making a will, and consider taking out life insurance to make sure your family is best protected. These two things are often critical oversights which can very easily be addressed.
Michael Gouriet (04:12): As Jo says, it's important to be clear about where you both stand, and then you can put the arrangements in place with professional advice and you can move forward and enjoy your family life together with peace of mind.