The importance of making a Will for unmarried couples
The number of cohabiting family households have doubled since 1997 yet there is no legislation in England and Wales that adequately protects such couples on death. Unmarried couples do not have the same rights as married couples especially when it comes to death and inheritance no matter how long you have been together.
If one partner dies without making a Will, this could leave the surviving partner without adequate financial provision as they will not inherit automatically under what is known as the intestacy rules.
The rules of intestacy are a set of rules which establish who is entitled to inherit if there is no Will.
The order is as follows:
- Spouse or civil partner
- Children or grandchildren
- Brothers and sisters (followed by half brothers and sisters)
- Aunts and uncles (followed by nieces and nephews)
Married couples have an automatic right to their spouse’s estate however partners, cohabitees, boyfriends and girlfriends do not appear on this list. Therefore the only way a surviving partner can request financial provision from their partner’s estate (when there is no Will) is by making a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The couple must have been living together for a period of two years before death in order to make a claim against the Estate.
There can be further issues if children are involved as they have a “greater right” to inherit their parent’s estate than a partner who may also be the mother/father of the children. This would mean that in order for the partner to claim financial provision, they would have to make a claim against the estate which would reduce the amount of inheritance given to their own children.
Moreover, cohabitees do not have an automatic entitlement to claim a share of their partner’s occupational pension on death (unlike married couples). You will need to ensure the partner has been nominated as a beneficiary under the pension scheme.
To ensure your family are provided for adequately on your death, you should ensure your wishes are correctly written in a Will. You should also ensure you have received estate planning advice in order to maximise the amount you leave to your family and minimise your inheritance tax liability.
We offer a wide range of services at Watson Thomas Solicitors, not just limited to family law. We have a private client department who offers the same excellent service for Wills, LPAs, Estate Administration, Trust Planning and Care for the Elderly.