According to the Office of National Statistics the number of cohabiting couples continues to grow faster than married couples and lone parent families.

There has been an increase of 25.8 per cent over the decade 2008 to 2018. Due to this continued growth in cohabiting couple families, it is so important to highlight the fact that cohabiting couples do not have the same legal rights and responsibilities to their partners as couples do if they are married or in civil partnerships.

Again, it is important to be aware of the fact that the term “common law marriage” is not recognised by the law of England and Wales or Northern Ireland and couples should not rely on this concept.

It is therefore extremely important that cohabiting couples consider putting in place a will to set out what will happen to their assets on death. Their assets will not automatically pass to the surviving partner.

For the surviving partner to benefit at all, they would have to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 which is not only time consuming and costly but also extremely stressful at a time when they are grieving over the loss of their partner.

In a will, arrangements can be made for the appointment of guardians for young children, which is something that cohabiting couples should be seriously thinking about. This is equally as important for married couples as it is often a subject that is difficult to discuss. The possible consequences of not having a will are that the persons’ assets will pass to other members of the direct family.

This may be children if they have any, but if not then assets will pass to parents, then siblings and maybe even remoter members of the family. This may not be what the individual intended and may have a significant financial impact on the surviving partner.