More and more unmarried couples are buying property together; it certainly has its benefits, as sharing the cost of a deposit, mortgage repayments and other expenses is an attractive notion. For many, it is the only way they can afford to buy a house whatsoever.
However, there are also many dangers in buying a property with your partner: first and foremost, you do not enjoy the same rights and privileges as married couples. This can be particularly troublesome should your relationship end, either due to a separation or a death. Will either of you be allowed to remain living in the property? If you sell, how do you split the proceeds? What happens if one of you paid more for the deposit? Evidently, your property rights as an unmarried couple can be something of a grey area.
Protecting Your Property Rights When Unmarried
Nevertheless, there are ways in which you can safeguard your position. For many, this will seem pedantic, not to mention a little unromantic - lots of couples buying a property together will be excited about their future together rather than thinking about what should happen if their relationship breaks down. But it is absolutely essential you do so, as you could stand to lose a lot if you fail to have the necessary protection in place. Remember, a few pragmatic steps now could save you a large amount of hassle in the long-run.
So what action should you take if you are buying a property with your partner?
1. Cohabitation agreement
The first step to take is to make a cohabitation agreement. This is a good idea if you and your partner are living together, regardless of whether or not you have purchased a property. A cohabitation agreement works like a prenuptial agreement in that it details what should happen to your assets should the relationship end. This will enable you to officially set out: when a sale may take place, when a sale should be delayed, whether one party is allowed to purchase the other's share in the property and what percentage each party should receive upon a sale (for example, if the property is not split 50:50).
2. Make a Last Will and Testament
The second step is for each of you to make a Last Will and Testament. Without one, a cohabitee is not legally entitled to any of their partner's assets upon their death. Instead, their deceased's share of the property will be subject to the rules of intestacy. So if you wish your share to pass to your partner, you must stipulate this in your Will. If you own the property jointly you can also include a survivorship clause within the deed. This ensures your share of the property will pass to your partner should you die.
Need Advice On Your Property Rights?
If you would like advice from a legal professional regarding your property rights as a cohabiting couple, contact us at Blackadders today. Call 01382 229 222 (Dundee) or 0131 222 8000 (Edinburgh) or complete the enquiry form on the right of this page.