The myths around common law rights
By International Adviser, 3 Aug 18
A lawyer lifts the lid on cohabiting myths around the world that could leave surviving partners with no legal rights.
There are around seven million people in UK living in cohabiting relationships, many of whom are wrongly under the impression that they will eventually acquire so-called “common law” rights, warns Teresa Cullen, a partner at law firm Fladgate.
The sad reality is that unmarried couples in England and Wales have very limited legal rights against each other in the event the relationship breaks down.
There is no automatic right for the “common law wife” to receive financial provision for herself, nor is she automatically entitled to a share of the family home.
While children’s rights for financial protection are maintained, the contrast between the rights of a wife as opposed to the mythical “common law wife” are vast – for example no automatic rights under the law of intestacy, which regulates estates where the deceased dies without having left a valid Will.
Also, even if a Will has been properly prepared, there are, of course, also different, and less attractive, tax consequences when leaving part of an estate to a cohabitant or “common law wife” (they would not qualify for the spouse exemption from inheritance tax).
Do cohabitants in other countries have “common law” rights? Click through to see what the situation is like in France, Spain, Hong Kong and Singapore.