Cohabiting couples without Wills leave partners at risk

Published: 13/08/2015

Statistics recently released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of people living as part of a cohabiting couple has risen by 46% between 2002 and 2014 and that 2.05 million people now cohabit. Many of these people aren’t aware that the legal rights of cohabiting couples are very different to those of married couples or those in a civil partnership. One area in particular where this is the case is in intestacy.

Recent changes strengthened the position of married couples and those in civil partnerships if one of the couple died intestate. Intestacy occurs when someone dies without a valid Will in place. Under the intestacy rules if one of the partners in a marriage or civil partnership dies then the other can inherit. Anyone cohabiting who is unmarried or not in a civil partnership will find that the assets of the deceased pass automatically to the deceased’s closest relatives, often either their children or their siblings. Their partner could therefore be left with nothing and in addition to bereavement could also face homelessness and financial hardship.

Head of Wills and Probate, Linda Cummins comments:

“Whilst it makes good sense for every adult to make a Will it is even more important to do so if you’re living in a cohabiting relationship. Recent legal changes strengthened the position of married partners or those living in civil partnership if one died intestate but the situation for cohabiting couples is very different.

“Without a Will in place, under the intestacy rules, the assets in the deceased’s estate would be bequeathed to their blood relatives - this means that their partner wouldn’t be entitled to inherit anything. Whilst in certain circumstances , the cohabitee can make a claim against the estate of their late partner, success is not guaranteed and taking such proceedings can be very upsetting at an already stressful and traumatic time. This risk can be overcome if each partner ensures they write a Will. By writing a Will they can secure their surviving partner’s financial future in the event they die first.”

Content correct at time of publication

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