More than three-quarters of cohabiting couples have no agreements in place to protect their assets in the event of a break-up, a survey by family solicitors Turbervilles and research company Atomik has found.
The study also found that more than half of people in such relationships believe in the myth of “common-law marriage”, the idea that they can acquire the same rights as married couples simply by living together for a time.
Graeme Fraser, partner at law firm Hunters Solicitors, said: "The latest ONS statistics published for 2016 show that the numbers cohabiting have grown from 6.8 percent of the population to 9.8 percent by 2016. Cohabitation is the fastest growing family type in the UK.
"Raising public awareness of the lack of rights on separation and on death for cohabitants, and to promote the use of cohabitation agreements and Wills is crucial to remedy injustices that can result under the current law. At present, economic unfairness can mean that an unmarried mother who has looked after children for many years has no automatic property rights at the end of a long relationship, particularly when the property is in her partner's sole name.
"Additionally, when an unmarried couple have lived together for many years and one dies without a will, a more distant relative with whom the deceased may have had no, or no significant contact, have achieve succession rights denied to the surviving cohabitant.
"Cohabitation agreements will almost always be legally binding if the terms are fair and each partner has taken independent legal advice. It could remove much of the distress, potential acrimony and expense that unmarried couples face on splitting up. Drawing up a Will means that your partner ends up receiving a fair share of the assets if that reflects your intentions.”
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