Cohabitees – If one of you dies, who would inherit?

Many cohabiting couples who are unmarried put off making a Will. It’s never pleasant to think about what would happen to your property if you were to die, but if you are not married and living with a partner, you need to give this some thought.

A lot of people believe that if they fail to make a Will, their property will automatically pass to their surviving partner because that person is their “common law spouse”. Although common, this belief is mistaken. There is no such thing as a “common law wife” or “common law husband” in English law. It does not matter how long you have been with your partner or lived together. If you die without a Will, your property will pass according to the Intestacy Rules. These rules are arbitrarily applied without taking the wishes of the deceased person into account.

It will come as an unpleasant surprise to any grieving partner to discover that they are not entitled to inherit any of their loved one’s property because they have not left a Will.

According to the Intestacy Rules, everything that the deceased unmarried partner owns in their sole name will pass to that person’s blood relatives in a strict order of priority. If the person had children, those children will inherit once they reach the age of eighteen. These rules are applied regardless of the relationship the dead person had with their family and children, or whether he or she would want those people to inherit.

In the case of unmarried couples who have lived together for a long time, the absence of a Will can lead to unfair results. The surviving partner either has to rely on the good nature of the people entitled to inherit, or alternatively apply to the Court to make a claim against the estate. Such a claim is lengthy, costs thousands of pounds and is stressful for the person concerned.

It goes without saying that arguing with your family or children about who should inherit your property or starting Court proceedings will only make things worse for your partner, who will already have to deal with the grief of your passing. This unfortunate situation is entirely avoidable with a little planning and forethought.

To protect the interests of your partner and to make sure that your property passes to the people you wish, please contact our specialist team today to discuss making a Will.

Alternatively come to one of our free personal law advice clinics on 7th or 28th September 2017 in Altrincham.