I own my home and my partner is soon to move in with me. A friend suggested a cohabitation agreement. Do you think that's really necessary? What are the benefits?

More and more people are co-habiting and what they don't realise sometimes is that cohabitation does not give you any legal rights which married people or people in a civil partnership enjoy. Despite the Law Commission making recommendations in 2007 that people who cohabit should enjoy legal rights derived from such cohabitation, nothing much has changed, which was endorsed in 2011 by the present government. At present the only solution to any kind of legal protection should you and your partner split up is to have a cohabitation agreement. Your other alternatives are to marry or enter into a civil partnership.

A cohabitation agreement sets out who owns what, the financial arrangements and payment you may have agreed to with your partner, but most importantly , it sets out who owns what, in what proportions, and how you will split the property, its contents, personal belongings, savings and other assets you and your partner may have accrued if the relationship breaks down. It can also cover how you will support any children you may have together, and also financial arrangements in the event you have joint bank accounts, or joint purchases for example a car. It can also set out how you and your partner intend to manage the day to day finances, who will contribute what, perhaps you may want to take out life insurance on each other, and various other factors that stem from living together.

With regard to your property which you own, it is imperative that you deal with this in a cohabitation agreement. You may be happy to share your property with your partner, so long as the relationship continues. However if the relationship fails you will want to retain your sole ownership of the property. In the cohabitation agreement it should state that your partner can occupy your property with your consent only, and will vacate when this consent is withdrawn. If not your partner can acquire occupier's rights to your property, and can refuse to vacate it if your relationship breaks down.

The benefits of a cohabitation agreement are numerous, and there are no disadvantages. It is a legally binding agreement which will have the full force of the law, as long as both parties have received independent legal advice and there has been no undue influence. This is definitely something which will be beneficial for you.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.