At the start of a new relationship, the last thing you want to think about is how best to protect yourself if things go wrong, but if you don’t do so, the consequences can be costly, time consuming and emotionally exhausting.

Living together is very different to being married or in a civil partnership when the relationship breaks down or one of the parties dies unexpectedly – the rights of cohabiting couples are remarkably limited.

When a dispute arises about the financial contributions each party has made, for example to the purchase of a house, or home improvements, the court will look for evidence. Without a written agreement the parties have to try to demonstrate what they had intended at the outset. It is far better to avoid those problems by entering into an express written agreement before you live together.

A Living Together Agreement sets out key and clear information about the contributions each party makes to the relationship and what happens to each party’s assets if the relationship ends. It can include property and savings acquired or contributed from the date of the agreement and separation.

Or you could consider a Declaration of Trust, which deals only with the ownership of your house but is necessary where one party has contributed to the purchase of the property but is not named as a legal owner, or where the property is owned jointly but not equally, because one party has contributed a greater deposit.

Both types of agreement provide clarity when the relationship ends, and should help avoid costly arguments when both of you just want to move on.