As a cohabiting couple not married or in a civil partnership, if one partner passes away without a Will providing for the surviving partner, the survivor will not have any automatic legal rights or benefits over the estate – no matter how long you have lived together.
Any property, assets and capital will pass under intestacy rules which define legal entitlement to inherit, beginning with the closest relatives. This means that the surviving partner may be left in financial difficulty or without a home.
There is some protection for you and/or any children of your relationship: The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 entitles you to make an application to the court if:
- You were financially dependent on your partner immediately before their death and your partner made inadequate (or no) provision for you by their Will or you will not receive enough (or anything) under the intestacy rules.
- You lived with your deceased partner in a ‘husband and wife’ style of relationship in the same household for a continuous period of two years ending immediately before the date of death.
Additionally, if you and your partner had children together and your partner made inadequate provision for them, you may also be able to make a claim as a parent for the benefit of your children. If you are in this situation, we can help and advise you on your rights.
Safeguards for unmarried couples
There are safeguards an unmarried couple can put in place during their lifetime to protect each other and their children from hardship on the death of one partner.
These include entering into a cohabitation deed defining provision on death, backed by a Will, life insurance, nomination of the other person and/or the children as beneficiaries and nomination of pension benefits to each other and/or the children. Please do get in touch with us if you wish to discuss these options further.
In contrast with the above, on the death of a married person, most – if not all – of their assets, property and capital will automatically pass to their surviving spouse on death where there is no Will. The survivor also has stronger statutory claims for provision from the other’s estate in the event of death where one spouse has made inadequate provision for the other person or their children in their Will.
If you would like to discuss this article on cohabiting couples or any other unmarried couple issue, please call us on 01392 421777 and ask to speak to our unmarried specialist team.