Unmarried Homeowners: Take Care

The Office for National Statistics says that cohabiting couple families are the fastest growing family type.

It will not be long before cohabiting couples become the most common type of family in the UK. 

The legal implications of cohabiting home-ownership

Following a recent Court of Appeal decision, when cohabiting partners or non-married or civil partnerships joint owners buy a property together they must contemplate and address the unthinkable: that their relationship might break down. Unless they determine at the time of purchase how they are to hold the property and what should happen in the event that they separate, they could potentially be facing a lengthy and expensive dispute. 

If one party is contributing more of the initial purchase price or will pay a larger proportion of the mortgage, the parties should consider a declaration of trust setting out the proportions in which they hold the property and how the net proceeds are to be divided upon the sale of the property.

Dealing with funding the original deposit on relationship breakdown

Many first-time buyers now receive help from their parents towards the deposit. If this deposit is not protected by a declaration of trust then in the event of a dispute between the owners the amount could be split equally between them. If you are a parent gifting your child a deposit towards their house purchase, would you wish this to be split equally between them and their partner in the event of a relationship breakdown?  Cunningtons LLP can assist by preparing a declaration of trust setting out the proportions in which the parties own the property and registering this information with the Land Registry so that it is evident in the event of a dispute where the net proceeds of sale are to go.

Dealing with funding the original deposit after death

Unmarried cohabiting partners should also consider what they would like to happen upon death. 

Whilst we would recommend that everyone has a valid Will to ensure their estate passes in accordance with their wishes, this is particularly crucial for unmarried couples who wish to provide for each other and/or their partner’s children in the event of their death.

Your Will is a vital part of caring for your family

Under intestacy rules, the surviving unmarried partner does not benefit from the estate of the deceased. This can cause serious financial problems as well as significant emotional distress. The statutory rules of intestacy do not allow anyone other than your natural children to inherit upon your death, therefore stepchildren or your partner's children will not inherit if you have not made a Will providing for them.

Without a Will, the surviving partner will not be able to deal with matters following the death of their partner. For example they will have no right to arrange the funeral or have any input into the funeral arrangements.

A Will is vital to ensure your estate passes to those that you wish it to and to ensure that your loved ones are provided for in the event of your death.

By writing a Will, you can appoint executors who will have the responsibility for administering your estate in the event of your death and arranging your funeral.

A Will is also extremely important if you have children as this allows you to appoint legal guardians to look after your children in the event of your death.                                                                                                                                                                                 

Cunningtons can assist you by providing you with advice tailored to suit your needs.

If you wish to discuss making a Will or a Declaration of Trust please do not hesitate to contact our specialist team on 01376 326868 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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Braintree - 01376 326868

Cunningtons LLP in Great Square and Tofts Walk in Braintree, Essex, is the head office for Cunningtons Solicitors across the UK. Established in 1748, the Braintree head office in Great Square is still in its original offices. This amounts to almost 300 years of Experience and Tradition.

The Senior Partner at Cunningtons’ Braintree office is David Drake. Paul Fenton is the Joint Managing Partner. He, along with Johanna Withams are the residential conveyancing partners at the Braintree practice. They are supported by qualified Solicitors and Licenced Conveyancers.

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