020 7387 2032

In modern relationships, it is common for couples to live together without taking the further step of getting married. Cohabitees nonetheless have fewer legal rights and responsibilities surrounding their relationship than a couple that is married. A common law spouse is not legally recognised under English & Welsh law.

Rights of a cohabiting couple

In England and Wales couples that live together have no default rights to their partner’s estate in the event they die. This is the case if the couple has children together. Neither does a cohabiting partner have any right to the moveable assets of their partner. The position differs with joint bank accounts and jointly owned debt – where one dies the other will assume ownership or responsibility.

One exception exists under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, where a cohabitant can seek reasonable provision from the estate of the deceased.

Legal safeguards

While no automatic rights arise from cohabitation, it is advisable for a cohabiting couple to draft stand-alone legal agreements that establish their responsibilities to one another.

Cohabitation contract

A couple that is living together can draft a cohabitation contract which provides for responsibilities during cohabitation to one another. This can cover living arrangements, finances and division of jointly owned assets.

To be considered valid, it is advisable for both parties to seek independent legal advice. 

Joint tenancy

If a couple wishes to guarantee that the surviving partner receives their share in a property, regardless of the existence of a Will, an option is to enter into a joint tenancy. A joint tenancy awards the right of survivorship to the joint owner regardless of any rule of intestacy or contrary Will drafted.

Drafting a Will

If a cohabiting couple wishes to make provision for one another after they are gone, it is highly advisable to draft a Will in their favour. If a person dies intestate, following the rules of intestacy their partner would have no claim to the estate.


One exception to the lack of responsibilities between cohabiting couples is if a court intervenes to place a Child Arrangement Order as to how much time a former partner should have with the child, including who should be the main caregiver. An unmarried father does not have automatic parental responsibilities, unless named on the child's birth certificate. A court may intervene to place financial support obligations upon the father towards the child, however.

Contact our Wills and Probate Solicitors London

If you are in a long-term, cohabiting relationship, we encourage you to consult our Wills and Probate Solicitors to protect your estate and your partner's rights to your inheritance. If you are not married or in a civil partnership, your partner has no legal right to a share of your estate, unless you specifically outline your wishes in your Will.

Our experienced Wills and Probate Lawyers are equipped to handle even most challenging legal matters, including complex cases involving the rights of cohabiting couples.

We offer a tailored approach that explores and addresses the personal circumstances of our clients. Contact us today on 020 7387 2032 or complete our online enquiry form.

key contacts

Please let us know your name.
Please let us know your email address.
Please enter a valid phone number
Invalid Input
Please let us know your message.
GDPR Agreement - I consent to the information supplied above to be stored on this website so that Lewis Nedas Law can respond to my enquiry.
Invalid Input

Top Ranked Lawyers: Legal 500 

Celebrating 40 years of practice in 2022, we are leaders in criminal defence, serious fraud, serious crime and many other areas of legal practice. We have been involved in many leading cases over the last 40+ years and are well known for our genuinely high acquittal rate and overall success rate. Please click the Legal 500 logo below for more information about our rankings.

We are happy to help

Get 24/7 Legal Advice, call

020 7387 2032

“I was put in touch with Lewis Nedas Law through a mutual friend and I was not disappointed. The team were nothing but straight forward, honest and realistic about the nature of my case and the expected outcome from the minute I got in contact and were willing to take over from the previous company at very short notice. With their unrivalled experience and expertise in their profession the outcome was even better than expected and I couldn’t recommend them enough.”

Accreditations and Awards

  • Legal 500 uk leading firm 2024
  • The Times Best Law Firms 2024
  • Legal 500 uk leading firm 2022 50x73
  • The Times Best Law Firms 2022
  • Google 5 stars