The Legal Benefits of Getting Married in England and Wales

When couples decide to get married, it is usually because they want to show their commitment to each other. There are, however, many legal benefits that arise from tying the knot.

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By Claudia Price - 22nd April 2021

Legal benefits of marriage

Many couples assume that by living together, even if in a lengthy relationship, that they acquire marital rights. Unfortunately, as cohabitees in England and Wales, you do not have the same rights as you would by getting married.

By saying ‘I do’, you will enjoy the following legal benefits.

Inheritance rights

As a spouse, you have an automatic right to your spouse’s estate on their death, if he or she dies without a Will. As a cohabitee, your partner has to make provision for you in their Will should they wish for you to inherit. This could mean that you may not be provided for following your partner’s death.

Parental responsibility

As a father, you do not automatically acquire parental responsibility following the birth of your child, unless you are married to the mother. You can, however, acquire parental responsibility by marrying the child’s mother (after the birth of your child) or being named on the birth certificate.

Your spouse will be your next of kin

Unlike cohabitees, your spouse will legally be known as your next of kin. They can make important decisions on your behalf, should you be unable to do so. This includes giving consent for medical treatment or end of life care.

Financial support

Married couples have a legal obligation to support each other. This includes financial support, even following separation. See our blog on Maintenance Pending Suit for more information. Even if the family home is solely owned by your spouse, you have a legal right to occupy the property while you remain married.

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Rights of married couples vs cohabitees

It is important to remember that unmarried couples, even if in a loving and committed relationship, do not have the same rights as couples who are married. If you are a cohabitee, there are ways to protect your position, such as preparing a Will, drawing up a Cohabitation Agreement or having a Declaration of Trust in place.

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If you would like further advice about the implications of marriage or cohabitation, please give our friendly team a call for a free no-obligation initial consultation.

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