Middle-aged couples are choosing to live together rather than marry
People living together outside marriage remains the fastest growing family type in England and Wales, according to the latest figures released from the Office of National Statistics. As at 2017, 1 in 8 people over the age of 16 are cohabiting.
It is specifically noted that an increasing percentage (12.9%) of 50 – 64 year olds have never married and are either living with their partner or living alone.
Between 2002 and 2017, the percentage of 50 – 64 year olds choosing to cohabit increased from 4.1 to 8.9%. Of these people over 57% have been previously married or in a civil partnership.
Many people who have been through separation choose to cohabit rather than remarry or enter a new civil partnership, in the hope of protecting themselves if their new relationship breaks down.
There are however pros and cons of each option, depending on your priorities. It is therefore crucial to understand the implications so that you can make an informed decision about what is best for you.
If you live together, your partner does not have the same financial claims as he or she would if you were either married or in a civil partnership. It is therefore correct to say that staying single is the best way to protect your finances in the event of relationship breakdown.
However, even if you own your property before you meet your partner, there are circumstances in which he or she could claim a share in its value. Disputes can arise when people do not talk about what they intend or agree what should happen if the relationship were to break down.
The best way to avoid the financial and emotional costs of such a dispute is to ensure you discuss and agree who owns what from the outset and that you record your agreement in writing. This could be by way of a deed of waiver (to confirm that your partner has no interest in your property) or a declaration of trust if it is agreed that you will own the property jointly but you want to own separate shares.
A cohabitation agreement is recommended if you want to clarify more than just the ownership of the property, for example who pays what and what would happen in the event of a separation. This is the best way to avoid misunderstandings or disputes further down the line.
There are other potentially costly implications of choosing to remain unmarried including:
you do not automatically inherit any share of your partner’s estate on their death in the absence of a Will;
- there are not the same tax reliefs available for unmarried couples;
- you do not have the same rights as a legal spouse if your partner loses capacity; and
- you do not have the same legal rights to pensions or insurance policies you would if you were married.
It is essential that you have up to date Wills and powers of attorney and that you have carried out proper tax planning if you are living with your partner.
Although there are financial advantages to being married, it seems that less middle-age people are choosing to get married for financial reasons with the number of those aged 50 – 64 who are married or in a civil partnership down from 74.2% in 2002 to 65.4% in 2017.
Whilst there is always a risk that a marriage will break down and your partner will have financial claims against you on a divorce, the risk of such claims can always be avoided with a properly drafted nuptial agreement.