“Today’s ONS statistics show that once again the steadily-increasing trend of people choosing to cohabit shows no signs of abating. In 2017, one in eight people aged 16 years and over in England and Wales are cohabiting, which continues a 15 year increasing trend.
“These figures serve to illustrate a divergence from behaviours of the past where people didn’t live together until they were married. Although this is no bad thing, it does mean that 4.7m people who are living as a couple but have never married or civil partnered do not enjoy the same rights as spouses on death or the same financial protections a married couple with children. They are effectively living as second class citizens when it comes to tax rights.
“However, there is some indication that historic legislation that doesn’t fit with modern behaviours is finally starting to change. Just last month, a Supreme Court’s landmark judgement opened the door to heterosexual couples being able to enter into a civil partnership, no longer making traditional marriage the only option. This opens up more avenues for those cohabiting, to access the rights associated with civil partnerships and marriages.
“Judgements like these increase the pressure on the government to carefully look at who deserves the inheritance and tax rights that marriage and partnerships involve. What needs to be considered is policy that affords rights to people who live together for an extended period of time so they too are protected even without entering into a civil partnership.”
5 ways your rights differ if you cohabit rather than marry:
- A married partner would inherit all or some of the estate when their partner dies even if no will has been left. If one cohabiting partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not automatically inherit anything - unless the couple jointly own property.
- An unmarried partner who stays at home to care for children cannot make any claims in their own right for property, maintenance or pension-sharing.
- Cohabiting partners have no access to a partner's bank account if they die - whereas married couples may be allowed to withdraw the balance providing the amount is small.
- Married partners have a legal duty to support each other whereas cohabiting couples are not legally obliged to support each other financially.
- All married partners have the right to live in the "matrimonial home. However, if you are the unmarried partner of a tenant, you have no rights to stay in the accommodation if you are asked to leave.
Source Citizens advice