Partner Jackie McRae of our Family Law team explores the less usual, but just as romantic, ways of showing someone you care this Valentine's Day.
"Whether you are romantically inclined or not, February 14th gives us all a reason to think about love. We all have different ideas of what it is to be romantic - whether it’s booking a candlelit dinner, buying a bouquet of flowers or even just doing the washing up!
"But showing your loved one you care can – and should – be about more than making a gestures one day of the year. Couples committing to bringing their lives together in a loving relationship should consider the legal and financial implications of their union in order to protect themselves and one another for the entirety of the relationship and beyond.
"Choosing to make provision for how you would like to take care of your loved one if things go wrong is actually a very caring thing to do. A mature, secure relationship isn’t solely based on romantic gestures – creating a safe and secure future for both of you will mean far more than any box of chocolates.
“The end of a relationship is a stressful time when it is particularly hard to set aside strong emotions in order to make sense of import decisions. Having thought in advance about what you would want to do if the worst happens and formalising that in a binding agreement shows a commitment to protect the other party and yourself whatever the future holds.
“Having well-prepared, well-considered paperwork to deal with the protection of you, your partner and your family now and into the future - whatever that may hold - gives one of the greatest gifts available – peace of mind."
Moving in together
"There is a common myth whereby people assume that certain legal rights arise from being a cohabiting couple. This simply isn’t the case.
"Couples living together are treated as two individuals for most legal purposes. If renting, the person named on the lease is responsible for the tenancy. Unless an agreement is in joint names one partner could require the other to move out at any time.
"If buying a property together, then it is advisable to decide what will happen should the relationship end. Unless you have a formal agreement, neither party has an automatic right to insist the property be sold or to buy the other party’s share. Even if one person has made more of a financial contribution, if you own a property equally any sale proceeds are most often also divided equally. In order to save potentially costly arguments in court later on therefore, it is wise to have a cohabitation agreement in place from the start."
‘What is mine is yours’ is a phrase often used when couples are getting married, but the legal situation is not as simple as this. If one person enters the marriage with more assets than the other, they may wish to protect these through a pre-nuptial agreement.
"There is a distinction to be drawn between what you own together and separately and what is treated as matrimonial property for deciding a fair financial settlement at the end of a marriage. Any property that has been built up or increased in value during the marriage might be subject to claim by your ex-partner."
Legal and financial planning
"No matter what stage of life you are in, or your relationship status, it is vitally important to have an up-to-date Will that takes into account your current wishes. If you are cohabiting but not married and something happens to one party, the other has no automatic legal rights to inherit unless it is explicitly stated in a Will.
"A Will allows you to have your wishes followed after you have gone. Dying intestate (without a Will) leaves a potential legal minefield for your nearest and dearest to deal with at an already difficult time.
"You should seek specialist advice on how best to manage your assets from an Inheritance Tax point of view to ensure your estate is divided the way you would wish. You can also include details such appointing a legal guardian for your children in your Will.
"A Power of Attorney is another document well worth having in place. Many may incorrectly assume that, because you’re married, you can automatically manage your spouse’s affairs if they are unable to. These are also useful for families to help manage the affairs of those who are unable to do so through illness, advancing age or living abroad. "
Pagan Osborne has legal offices across Fife and Edinburgh and conducts free 360 Reviews looking at all aspects of individuals’, couples’ and families’ lives to ensure the right legal and financial protections are in place for now and the future.
To contact Jackie email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0131 624 6969.