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Millions of cohabiting couples have no plans in place to protect their assets

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An estimated 2.5 million cohabiting British couples have no feasible plan in place to protect their personal assets in the event of a separation, the latest research suggests.

According to reports, many couples fear that a sensible conversation along the lines of ‘who gets to keep what if we break up’ would cause arguments or problems in their relationship – and therefore many couples are putting such talks off.

Worse still, more than a third of Britons would trust their partner to provide some sort of financial contribution in the event of a break-up, despite the unpredictable nature of separation – which all too often leads to bitter arguments and disagreements.

The research comes not long after separate data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that the ‘cohabiting couple’ is now the UK’s fastest-growing family type.

Meanwhile, data published by the Resolution Foundation earlier this year found that cohabiting couples with children are now more likely to separate than their married counterparts.

This research poses a problem – in that many unmarried cohabiting couples are not aware that they do not have any legal rights to claim ownership of each other’s property or assets if they split up.

In recent weeks, interesting initiatives have emerged encouraging cohabiting couples to think sensibly and plan ahead for the worst.

Furniture shop Wayfair has created what it describes as ‘the flatmate prenup’ – a mock contract which breaks down what would happen to furniture in the event that cohabiting couples or flatmates decide to go their separate ways in the future. This may be a novel idea, but such a throwaway solution is unlikely to hold strong in the heat of an argument – and even less likely to hold strong should a separated couple find themselves facing a legal battle.

A smarter solution is to draw up a legally-recognised Will or cohabitation agreement.

Simply put, a cohabitation agreement allows a cohabiting couple, no matter whether heterosexual or homosexual, to form an agreement. The agreement will stipulate how their assets would be divided in the event of a split.

MFG Solicitors’ family team can advise on preparing a cohabitation agreement and also on property rights for cohabiting couples. For more information, please contact us.