Common law relationships – they’ve come a long way, but not as far as you may think

May 8, 2017 Ian Hull Common Law Spouses Tags: , 0 Comments

According to Statistics Canada, between 2006 and 2011 the number of common-law couples rose 13.9%, more than four times the 3.1% increase for married couples.

The trend is clear – more people are choosing to skip the formalities of a marriage and move in together. No cost, no ceremony, no family fights about who’s invited – plus, it’s really the same as marriage, isn’t it?

Not so fast…

Common law couples need to think very carefully about the what their union means from a financial perspective, especially as time passes, their assets grow, and children enter the picture. Because in many cases, it’s not the same as marriage.

Yes, from a tax perspective, the Canada Revenue Agency treats married couples and common-law couples the same. But looking beyond tax events to other life events, such as separation and eventually death, the treatment may be very different indeed.

This recent article provides an excellent summary of what can happen to assets when a common-law couple separates.

http://business.financialpost.com/personal-finance/why-confusing-common-law-relationships-with-marriage-can-be-a-costly-mistake

In terms of estate matters, the article below provides a clear overview of how estate laws differ across the country – and the impact of these differences on common law couples when one spouse dies.

http://www.advisor.ca/tax/estate-planning/estate-planning-pitfalls-for-common-law-partners-163166

In today’s world, it’s great to have a choice in how we form couple relationships. My only advice is that couples ensure they’re making an informed choice – and that they have a clear understanding of what their marriage or common law decision could mean in the future.

Thanks for reading,

Ian M. Hull

Other Articles You Might Be Interested In

Common Law Spouses’ Rights to Property

Common Law Spouses – Not all relationships are created equal

Common Law Spousal Property Entitlements Prior to Death

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