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I still get the house don't I?

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

I am talking about couples who choose to live together. When they split up many couples still believe that they have certain rights like married couples. The truth is no they don't and even, if they have children they have no automatic claim to a share of the assets.

Let's take an example of Tom and Mary. Mary divorced her husband 30 years ago, had two young children and the house was transferred to her sole name. She met Tom, a few years later and they eventually moved in together. After 20 years, Mary's health is deteriorating fast and she has severe Alzheimer's Disease, and despite his best efforts, Tom has to accept it is now time for Mary to get expert care in a nursing home.

Tom and Mary have been happy, they did think of getting married but neither were really bothered. They never considered finances, particularly the house, both lived under assumptions that they never discussed.

So now, Mary is going in to a nursing home and money is needed for her care, what rights do you think Tom has in respect of the house? It remains in Mary's sole name.

Would it surprise you to hear that Tom has no rights in respect of the house. He could mount claims under the Law of Property Act to establish an interest in the property, and this would be complicated, costly and time consuming and Tom is so upset at Mary having to move to a nursing home he is not in a fit state himself to mount such a claim. Mary has Alzheimer's so is unlikely to have any capacity to deal with her affairs. (Without considering whether there is an enduring power of attorney or the practicalities of applying to the Court of Protection).

So the property could be sold to pay for Mary's nursing home fees. Even if Tom makes a financial claim, for an interest in the property, only the court would be able to declare this. It is a complicated area of law and much depends on evidence, and how the couple dealt with their affairs, did Tom contribute to the mortgage, improvements on the property. Were there any discussions with Mary saying the property was as much Tom's and her's. Very difficult when a great deal of this evidence would be spoken rather than in writing.

You think this could not happen, it can, this is just one of the many examples. Even where a couple live together, buy a property in their joint name's then have some children. What about this situation, not any automatic right like for married couples to the house.

The law has some developed some ways to support cohabiting couples....

What is the solution, well check out where you stand and what you can do to help yourself, houses and pensions can be valuable assets.

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