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What do I need in place if we're not married but have children?(22 Posts)
I am forever reading on mumsnet about protecting myself legally if DP and I have children (which we do) but aren't married.
We rent from a HA currently but are hoping to save up a deposit to buy somewhere in the next few years.
I have only just had a baby and am a Carer for my eldest DC (from a previous relationship) so don't work, my only income in Carer's allowance and DC receives DLA, DP earns too much for me to get child benefit.
What do we need in terms of legal stuff for me to be protected in the event of a split or if one of us dies? We're not planning either of these things but I don't think we'll ever get around to getting married or at least not anytime soon.
Marriage is the cheapest, and most straightforward.
Think of marriage as a legal transaction and a wedding as a celebration, no one need know you've "married" any more than they would if you signed loads of papers at the solicitors - pop down to the local reg office with two witnesses; job done! If you decide to have a wedding at a later date, a celebrant can do that for you and again, no one need know that you're already "married".
Death is the straightforward one. Have you both got wills, and do you know how property will be left? Does he have a pension, and does it pay out to non-marital partners at all? If yes, has he actually nominated you?
How do you get on with his family? Not a silly question, but one that matters if he has a bad accident or falls seriously ill. Would they be happy for you to lead on medical consents? If not, marriage might be your only option.
If you separate, you will not get spousal maintenance as you are not a spouse. You can't do anything about that other than marry. Assets tend to go with the person who owns them legally. You rent, so no house to split, but are there any other valuable assets? Is it clear who owns them, of in what proportions if shared? Can you afford the rent on your current property if he moves out (based on your own income and child maintenance for his DC)?
Oh, and do bear in mind that wills and pensions nominations can be changed rapidly if you separate. His DC may well be able to make a successful challenge if disinherited, but if you were not married and are no longer together, you won't.
I would certainly open the conversation about marriage (again?) as it would be so easy, relatively speaking. It sounds more like it's not a priority than that either of you don't want to do it?
You definitely need wills and life insurance - ideally for both of you. Also, would he have a death in service benefit? Are you named as the beneficiary?
I'm no expert so would say that you need a solicitor. Since your ds may have longer-term needs I would say you need one whether you marry or not, but that any solicitor would say that marriage would sort out quite a few issues.
Thanks for the replies.
Yes it's not that we don't want a marriage, I just don't want a wedding. He would like one and we dance around the subject because it's easier.
When discussing the year ahead this evening I have made it clear I'd like to talk to someone about legal protection in the event of death or a relationship breakdown and he says that's fine with him.
To answer some questions.
We don't have wills but do have joint life insurance.
I get on well with his family.
He doesn't have a pension although it's a priority to sort this year as he turns 30 next year and me the year after it's about time we thought about the future especially if we're hoping to buy a house.
No assets and no I couldn't afford the rent if something happened unless the life insurance paid out then would be comfortable for quite a while.
We have 2 children together that are babies and I have 2 children that are older.
OP, as a will writer I'd suggest:
1. That you do make wills. This is because if one of you dies without a will, the other person won't inherit anything at all (unless you have joint assets - see * below). So if your dp dies, his assets all go to your joint children. If they're under age, those assets will be held on trust. This would potentially make it very difficult for you to manage. Your Wills will also cover things like guardianship for any minor children.
2. That when you buy a house together, you do it as tenants in common*). This means that you can write your share of the property into a life interest trust so that if you die first, your partner doesn't inherit your share and then potentially either make a new will cutting out your older children or marry someone else, who will then get all of your assets. Your partner can, however, carry on living in the house until he dies or marries someone else. Therefore your share of the house is protected for all of your children. *A tenancy in common means that you each hold a set % of the value of the house so the survivor doesn't automatically receive the first to die's share. This is essential for a life interest trust to work, and is also good for older people concerned about nursing home fees.
3. It would still be sensible to get married if you are likely to be liable to pay inheritance tax. Whilst you're unmarried, the first person's estate (over £325k at present but this will be rising over the next 5 years to £500k) is liable to tax at 40%. If you're married, the first to die's tax free allowance passes to the survivor so the survivor isn't left having to sell assets to pay the tax bill. IHT is then payable on the second death at whatever is over the double allowance (so £650k rising to £1m).
You may not be over the IHT threshold now, but that may change as and when either or both of you inherit in the future.
If you'd like any more info, feel free to ask!
As a family lawyer the answer is simple - get married!
Marriage offers the best protection and You know you don't don't need to have a wedding to get married. Just a quick trip to the registry office with a witness or two and pay a small fee. Afterwards let everyone know and if you want to have a party to celebrate with a drink contribution whilst you provide nibbles.
A dear friend has been left in a real financial mess when her dp of 26 years left her and her dcs much of which could have been prevented if they had been married.
This is a really good pension information page, though the short answer IMO is to join your employer's pension scheme if at all possible. Do it the day you/he go back to work.
as everyone is saying, it would be much easier to book a slot at the registry office, although you'll still need wills etc afterwards.
you have kids so it is important. He really will have to get over his desire for a fancy-frock party, as I would say if it were you that wanted it.
If you're happy to be married but don't want a wedding, the obvious solution would seem to be a quick registry office job with a couple of randoms as witnesses, and don't bother telling anyone about it. I believe that's the usual drill.
Thanks for all the advice, I'll go away and have a think.
This is complete madness OP ! There is nothing that provides the same level of legal protection as marriage. To get even a semblance of legal protection would require a number of meetings with solicitors and god knows what paperwork, all of which could be overturned by a bitter/vindictive partner in the unhappy event of an acrimonious split. (It happens) It would also cost shed loads more than popping down to the local registry office with two friends/relatives/strangers of the street, 28 days notice and the sum of £35 each to give legal notice plus £55 for basic registry office ceremony. For the grand sum of £125 you will have more legal protection than any other agreement can buy for a hundred times the price. As a sahm reliant on your partners income, it's almost negligent not to marry !
Not at all sensible to be a SAHM when you're not married: if you broke up you probably wouldn't get any share of his assets or money over and above maintenance for DC (ie no spousal maintenance).
Yes I get that from all the previous posts.
I have said I will take the advice on board and discuss it with DP and mace from there.
Could you compromise on a low key do? Registry office in the morning, lunch with close family afterwards, everyone clears off home?
I think we will have too, he wants he full song and dance with bells and whistles and I can't imagine a lot of things I'd rather less do! I don't like weddings.
He won't go for a quick registry office at lunchtime type thing.
We will have to discuss whats going to happen because I'm not willing to be in such a vulnerable position, I need to protect myself and my children.
Yeah. You really do. It'll be easier to come up with an acceptable ceremony compromise than to get what I'd consider to be anything remotely approaching adequate legal protection in your situation. Maybe still keep the ceremony small and guest list minimal but do it in a nice hotel instead? Classy, but quiet and simple.
I wonder if you could have a legal ceremony now with a plan to compromise on a larger reception at some point in the future. Ie separate the two out. This has the added bonus of meaning you don't have to have the future "wedding" in a licensed venue - ie you could have a small renewal ceremony outside etc .
The "quick lunchtime in the reg office" would be no different from going to a solicitors office and signing several documents in front of witnesses, though - what he says he wants is a bells and whistles wedding, which has absolutely nothing to do with legal protection for you or the DCs.
The wedding is a staged production - costumes, a script, cast and set; a way of you both declaring to the world that you've made a commitment to each other. A marriage is a legal transaction - it's not romantic, or something you need to share with others (that bit is not even shared with the guests at most religious weddings) - if you can sell it to him in that way then maybe in the future, a wedding production is something you'd be willing to plan with him? Our celebrant was brilliant; everything was just as we wanted it to be, and she didn't let on that we'd been married for years - as she said, our marital status was irrelevant to our wedding!
OP, seize the moment. !!! You are in such an enviable position. There are many many posts on here from women who have made the terrible mistake of having children without being married (and before the 'happy living together' brigade pounce, I am referring to those who want to be married and believed their partner would want the same thing once a baby was on the scene but who have been fobbed off). Your DP is happy to do the decent thing without hesitation, so get on and do the important bit and leave him to do the 'big production' that he wants. Put the ring on the other hand and think how you would feel if you wanted to declare you love for your partner to the world and he wanted to hide it away. Some compromise required, I think.
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