Do cohabiting couples need a Deed of Trust?

In the modern world, living arrangements of couples and families have become much more complex than previously. As well as an increase in divorce, blended families and more people opting for the single life, there has also been a marked increase in couples choosing to cohabit and buy property while not entering into traditional cultural institutions like marriage.

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The Guardian has reported that couples who are living together but not married or in a civil partnership have now risen to 22.7%. This may be for many reasons, and not necessarily because a couple rejects the idea of marriage. Finances and an increasing difficulty getting on the property ladder may mean many couples prioritising purchasing a property before they hear the sound of wedding bells.

There is an underlying complexity in these situations where couples choose to co-own property but forgo the traditional legal framework that marriage or civil partnership provides. In such arrangements, a Deed of Trust can provide some protections and clarifications about a couple’s rights. But what is a Deed of Trust and what are the benefits?

A Deed of Trust is a legal document that clarifies the ownership rights of joint property. It can set out the T&Cs of managing the property, and in effect creates a legal trust, an entity that takes care of assets for beneficiaries.

Do cohabiting couples need a Deed of Trust?

Although it may not seem incredibly romantic when a couple are about to take an exciting step towards home ownership together, a Deed of Trust is a sensible option to protect both parties. A Deed of Trust will lay out their rights in relation to a property they own together. This means that should the worst happen, hopefully, it will avoid more difficult conversations or acrimony in the event of a breakup or disputes with families over estates in the case of bereavement.

How much does it cost?

The Deed of Trust cost may depend on the complexity of the arrangement. For example, some Deeds of Trust can set out that a property is simply split 50/50, whereas some can be divided based on different percentages, reflecting the amount of money couples put in. You should get quotes from a few firms. Specialist solicitors such as can advise you on the cost and time it may take.

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What about renters?

While renting brings its own challenges, it does tend to be easier when dividing assets at the end of a relationship, the main concerns being furniture and pets. If a couple have particularly valuable shared possessions, then getting legal advice may be advisable.