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  • Writer's picturePenn Chambers

Are You A Common Law Spouse?

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Are you a common law husband? Or a common law wife? Or maybe a common law partner? Think again.


In the medieval period in the United Kingdom, it was not unusual for two people to live together and declare that they were “married” without going through a formal ceremony of marriage as we call it today. Since then, society has moved forward and many people now assume that living together for a period of time (many seem to think about 2 years), they then become common law husband and wife.


A long time ago, that ceased to be the case. In about the year 1215, in the reign of King John and the year of the Magna Carta (yes that long ago), clandestine or non-witnessed marriages were banned for Catholics. For others, in 1753, marriages not witnessed by a pastor or bishop were also banned and thus the concept of common law husband and wife effectively ceased to exist.


Sadly, to this day, people still seem to think they are common law husband or wife and that simply is not the case.


This can have a seriously detrimental effect on you, if you think you are a common law spouse, in relation to many rights, such as pensions and tax etc but also particularly when it comes to death. If you are cohabiting as a couple, the law does not recognise you as common law spouses, even if you have children together and even if you have lived together for many years. Therefore, if you do not have a Will the Rules of Intestacy will apply.


Intestacy means dying without a valid Will.


In an intestacy, a so-called common law spouse is COMPLETELY disregarded and if, for example, you have children, they will inherit ALL the assets. If there are no children, the next entitled will inherit and so on.


So imagine you are a couple, having lived together for many years and even had children together but never married or entered into a civil partnership. Imagine the assets, like the home, are in your partner's name and that partner passes away. That partner's assets will vest into their children under the Rules of Intestacy – you may get nothing.


There are a number of solutions to this problem and one of those solutions is to get a Will drawn.


Please contact us with your questions.


Shak Inayat



Shak Inayat | 075 38 37 38 38


The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute professional advice and you should take full and comprehensive legal, accountancy or financial advice as appropriate on your individual circumstances by a fully qualified Solicitor, Accountant or Financial Advisor/Mortgage Broker before you embark on any course of action.

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