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Cohabitation Agreements – dealing with the fall out

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Over the last 20 years, changing social attitudes have led to a shift away from traditional familial relationships towards more informal arrangements. As of November 2017, the unmarried cohabiting couple was the fastest growing type of family in the UK with over 3.3 million cohabiting couples in 2017 in comparison with 1.7 million in 1997 (1). Over a third of cohabiting couples also had dependent children in 2017 (2). Unfortunately, an increasing number of people are taking the decision not to marry without understanding that the relationship between unmarried cohabitants has no legal status in the UK. If the relationship were to break down, there is no body of law upon which the cohabitants can rely for their rights to be protected, unlike when a marriage ends.

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Testamentary Freedom

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The Supreme Court has recently issued a decision in the case of Ilott v Mitson turning on the interpretation of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the Act ). In England and Wales a testator can choose to distribute their estate to anyone subject to the possibility of an excluded person bringing a claim under the Act.

The Court may decide to make financial provision for a dependent of the deceased be it a child, spouse, or former spouse if the Court concludes that the testator failed to make adequate financial provision for them. Such a claim is more likely to succeed if the Claimant is receiving state benefits.

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The Existence of Prenuptial Agreements

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The existence of Prenuptial Agreements (pre nup) has been given a further boost by a recent Family Court decision at the end of 2016. Whilst pre nups are not legally binding, the Family Courts in England are increasingly willing to uphold pre nups as long as they were entered into freely with full understanding of their implications by both parties. Comprehensive financial disclosure is of paramount importance together with careful drafting and detailed legal advice to be provided to both parties.

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Protecting your digital assets on death

David

Much of what we do now involves some sort of online action, be it paying for something in a shop using our phone or downloading music to listen on the commute to work.

Whatever we do online, through our computers or phones, we are creating a digital legacy that often has some monetary and/or sentimental value. As an estate planning and probate specialist including this as part of persons assets when they pass is becoming an increasing consideration.

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