What is ‘common-law’ marriage?

You may be familiar with the phrase ‘common-law marriage’, the idea that if you live with someone, your assets will simply pass to your partner upon death.

What you might not know, however, is that this simply isn’t the case.

Like many things in law, assumptions such as this tend to form over time, passing down the generations and resulting in damaging consequences for families.

Given the proportion of people that are cohabiting, the potential extent of the problem is even more worrying.

Survey results from the Office for National Statistics recently showed that cohabitees are the second most common type of family, with the total for 2017 standing at 3.3 million. Cohabiting families are the fastest growing type of family, with the most recent figure being more than double that which was recorded in 1996.

In addition to showing a clear shift in values towards the ‘traditional’ family structure, it also represents an increasing number of families who may be unaware of the consequences when it comes to later life planning.

 

So, is common-law marriage a myth?

In short, yes.

Without a will, ‘the rule of intestacy’ will step in and your assets will be distributed according to it. Under these rules, only spouses, civil partners and close relatives will automatically be able to inherit your wealth – cohabitees not included. Even if you have been living with a cohabiting partner for many years, this will not increase their right to your estate.

The concern regarding cohabitees is further supported by figures from family justice organisation, Resolution. They reveal that over two-thirds of cohabiting couples don’t know that ‘common-law’ marriage has no legal grounding in the UK – a worrying statistic.

The only way to ensure that your possessions are passed on in line with your wishes is to write a will.

Though it might seem like a hassle, writing a will can be easy when you’ve got experts to help you, not to mention give you priceless peace of mind.

 

ELM Legal Services have been helping people write wills for 15 years.

To speak to one of our professional team today, call 0800 019 4557 or contact info@elm-online.co.uk. 

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