Older must mean wiser

29th May 2009

A leading Midlands law firm is urging co-habiting couples to protect their assets, after it was revealed that less people are getting married than ever before.

Higgs & Sons believe that couples who opt against tying the knot but choose to live together are leaving themselves in a vulnerable position - if they eventually break up.

Philip Barnsley, a partner in Higgs' family law team, made the statement after a new report was issued by the Office for National Statistics, which states that fewer people are getting married now than at any time in more than 100 years.

And those that do are, on average, older than ever before.

The latest ONS survey reveals that there were 237,000 marriages in England and Wales - the lowest number since 1895. The average age to wed for the first time in the UK is nearly 30 for women and about 32 for men. This is about two years later in life than when a similar survey was undertaken in 1996.

One trend that has seen a significant increase is home ownership. According to the survey the number of homeowners in the UK rose by 49% to 18.5 million between 1981 and 2006.

Commenting on the report, Philip said: "It is now common for people to marry later in life, or simply decide to live together without ever getting married. This can have a number of unforeseen consequences that people can protect themselves against.

"Those couples who decide not to marry should make it clear how they own any joint property, and ensure that this is reflected in a cohabitation agreement and in separate wills. For those getting married later in life, there may often be the need to consider the protection of existing property in their sole name by way of a pre-nuptial agreement, or to protect assets for children from a previous relationship through family trusts.

"As society changes and peoples' households and families change too, it is important that the right safeguards are put into place to protect against an unwanted outcome"

For further details, please contact Philip Barnsley, a partner in the family team on 01384 342100 or e-mail philip.barnsley@higgsandsons.co.uk


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