David Harris-Lowe, partner, Family Law
Wrong. When it comes to property division upon a separation or death, and in other areas of the law, there is a significant difference between a married and common law couple. Married spouses have pre-determined rights to share in the increase in property value earned during the marriage and pre-determined rights to receive benefits from their deceased spouses estate.
While common law spouses may have property rights after separation or a death of their spouse, determining those rights is not always clear. Common law spouses do not automatically have an interest in their home or the other spouse’s investments on separation. They have no guaranteed right to inherit from their deceased spouse’s estate.
The fact is, in many ways, the law hasn’t caught up with the realities of the way people form relationships.
If you are in a common law relationship you can protect yourself by reviewing (or getting) your will and estate plan with a lawyer. You should consider a cohabitation agreement or a ‘prenup’. If you have separated or your spouse has passed away, and you haven’t been treated fairly with regard to the sharing of assets, then you should also meet with a competent lawyer to find out what your rights are and whether there is a remedy for you.