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A big red question mark against lots of white question marks
When our property clients are buying their first properties together, the last thing that they want to think about is what would happen if they split up. Afterall, most of us wouldn’t buy a property with our significant other if we were thinking of ending the relationship, would we? 
 
Well, whilst it’s not necessarily nice to think about, it’s important to make sure your assets are protected before your property purchase completes. To help you along the way, our expert family solicitors, based in our Preston and Lancaster offices, have answered our clients’ question. 
I live in a property with my two children, who are 21 and 18. My partner wants us to move in together. She will be able to rent out her property, and we’ll save on bills, as we will be splitting the costs of the mortgage, bills and living between us. However, I’m worried as I don’t want to lose any rights to my property; it’s my children’s inheritance and I want to ensure that it is protected. What shall I do? 
 
Sara Williams, head of the Family law team at MG Legal, says that the starting point is that the property is that you own the property both legally (as in, it’s in your own name), and beneficially (so nobody has any interest in it, except you). Sara explains that if a partner moves into your property, they could potentially claim that they have a beneficial interest in it. 
 
To be successful in their claim, they would have to show the Court that you had both agreed that they would have an interest in the property, or that they had been promised a share of the property. 
 
The best way to protect yourself from any claim, would be to enter into a cohabitation agreement. This document would set out the basis upon which you live together and the extent that you share any assets. For example, you may state in this document that your property is solely yours, and there is no intention for your partner to have any interest, and any property in your partner’s sole name is, similarly, their own. Our expert family law team offer fixed-fee cohabitation agreements for just £1,500.00 plus VAT. 
 
Sara also points out that the fact that you’ve entered into a cohabitation agreement does not completely prevent any future claims. One way to help this may be to only accept contributions for living costs and costs of the upkeep of your property. Our team would recommend not accepting payments towards any mortgage on the property, or for any renovations. If you pay for these yourself, this would help show that there is no intention for your partner to have a beneficial interest in the property. This way of dealing with money will help to reflect the fact that you want to share your life and not your property. 
 
Another top tip for protecting your assets, comes from our new member of the Wills and Probate Solicitors’ team - Lorraine Gill. Lorraine explains that having a valid Will in place, can help to ensure that your intentions are clear if you pass away whilst still cohabiting with your partner. With cohabiting partners, inheritance is not automatic, and the deceased’s estate would usually pass as per the Rules of Intestacy (which does not currently include unmarried partners). Whilst your partner could potentially make a claim against your estate, ensuring that your Will reflects your intentions with the property clearly could help to avoid any dispute over your estate. More importantly, a letter of explanation with your Will could also ensure that any claims made by your partner, would not succeed. Even after death, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 
 
Before you get bogged down with presuming that your partner will want to make a claim, our Wills and Probate solicitors would suggest sitting down with your partner, and having a frank discussion about your assets, and how you intend to share them (or not share them, as the case may be). 
 
Sara would suggest that any agreement is formalised in writing, to prevent any misunderstanding in the future, and that both parties should receive their own, independent legal advice, from their local solicitors. You would need to consider whether your partner could remain in the property, if you were to pass away, and how long this would be for. 
 
So, if you’re thinking of cohabiting with your partner, make sure you’ve considered how your assets should be dealt with before it’s too late. 
 
Whilst our team have offered their opinion, each individual case should be taken on its own merits, and any opinion offered is not a substitute for taking full legal advice on your personal situation. Contact our expert team, here, today, to get the legal advice that you need. 
 
MG Legal - Your Local Solicitors 
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