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Legal standing when not married(9 Posts)
I'm sure this has been asked a million times before but please bear with me.
DP are expecting our first child in October, and are in the process of buying a house together. We will make wills ASAP to ensure each other inherits the other's half of the house should one of us die (so one of us isn't left homeless with our child).
I see lots of posts on mumsnet where people say things like "I can't believe how dumb some women are, leaving themselves exposed by not being married"/similar and I need to know...what does this mean? What should we be doing to protect our child/me/DP? Sorry if I'm being dumb
I don't want to be one of these "dumb women"; be brutal, what's the worst that could happen a) to me if DP died, b) to our child if I were to die, or c) if we split up?
What are the practical implications of being an unmarried parent (other than having to provide identity docs when taking child abroad, etc.)?
IME, most of it is to do with finances. It's not dumb to be unmarried parents. It is, however, very risky for one parent to become financially reliant on the other parent, for example a SAHM.
At the moment, if your DP died than you are not the legal next of kin and would have issues accessing his finances, perhaps making any last medical decisions, possibly issues involved in planning the funeral etc. You also need to make sure that life insurance and pensions have you as a named beneficiary, otherwise they will go to the legal next of kin.
Also, one of the biggest things is that if you split up while unmarried, your DP only owes financial support to your DC. If you split up while married, he may owe financial support to you too - which is especially important if you were to become reliant on his earnings.
The vast majority of the legalities can be tied up separately through powers of attorney, cohabitation agreements (where you have a legal document stating you are in a partnership and make future decisions regards properties, saving etc in case you split up). However it all costs a lot more than just going to a registry office, and doesn't always cover every eventuality.
Realistically, if you share property and finances, you do need to talk to a lawyer to find out where there are any holes in your finances and what can be done to fix them. Given the cost, I think you've got to have a real issue with being married, as it's much easier to solve all the problems by getting married.
(I say this as someone who is consciously not married - and a parent - but we do have the benefits of earning the same amount, working the same amount, and having access to a lawyer who did all the paperwork for us for free; we have powers of attorney and a cohabitation agreement)
Things like pension nominees and beneficiaries of wills can be changed at the stroke of a pen, and if unmarried you would have no recourse.
The house, depending on whether you are joint tenants or tenants in common, would be rather more secure. But could you afford it without him? And what independent pension will you will accrue. It's important you do not give up financial autonomy without doing your sums on what you would be left with (ie legally in your name, and under your control).
You need to consider death of either/both of you, incapacity of either, and amicable/acrimonious split.
IHT exemptions and bereavement benefits are the ones that cannot be fixed at all.
And if there is accident/injury/death on holiday overseas, depending on what country you are in there may be no recognition of an unmarried partner at all, adding complications at just the time you don't need it. (pragmatically, NOK is a fairly loose concept in all parts of UK and unless you get on badly with his family, it's unlikely ever to be a problem).
It's not dumb to be unmarried. I earned 10x my children's father and the divorce was expensive. For me getting married was very dumb indeed. It is only dumb for lower earners who are often men these days (!) not to marry.
If you are unmarried and all assets are in joint names the biggest risk is if the woman earns less or gives up work (never do that -it's silly, always work full time and out earn your man even when babies come and don't take long maternity leaves)..... then if you are unmarried the higher earner has no obligation to pay you any continuing maintenance payments (although she or he has to for the children).
Inheritance tax does not matter for most people as they are not over the level to pay it but certainly in my case if I die as I'm unmarried the children are homeless because 40% of my assets are stolen by the state in IHT. If I were married we would have double inheritance tax band/tax free and would be in a much better position.
Out of interest, why are you not getting married?
You need to do the following as a matter of urgency:
- Get mirror wills. You're sorting this, that's good. Get advice on how you want to own the house and IHT implications if your estate is likely to be big enough.
- Let your GP know you want to be each other's next of kin. Sign something to this effect.
- Check ALL pensions and insurances to check they will pay out to an unmarried partner. I believe most do. Most is not all.
- Consider taking out insurance/amending the existing to reflect the fact that you won't be entitled to widows pension if either of you dies.
It's impossible to answer your questions about the worst that could happen without knowing whether either or both of you work and plan to continue, what assets you have and who earns what. Also would need to know your priorities, as in are either or both of you looking to keep finances separate, preserve your own assets? It's quite possible marriage won't be advantageous for you, it isn't always.
'Exposed' by being unmarried means
a) Living in, and especially contributing to, a house which is owned by your DP / in his name - gives you no rights to your home whatsoever.
b) giving up paid work to be a sahm, losing your own income, losing your place on the job / career / earnings ladder - no recognition of your role if you split, no support for you, no share of pensions, savings, nothing!
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