Many couples who live together believe that they share the same legal rights as married couples when one of them passes away but, in reality, this is incorrect.
It does not matter whether an unmarried couple have lived together for ten years or ten months, they have no automatic legal right to inherit a share of the estate of their partner when they pass away. Therefore, this makes putting a Will in place even more important for those couples who choose not to marry.
Between 1996 and 2016, the number of cohabiting couple families grew the faster than those choosing to marry and it is likely that this trend will continue.
If you pass away without a valid Will the Intestacy Rules will come into play and apply to your estate.
These rules make no provision for couples who live together unmarried. This will mean that the surviving partner will not receive anything from the estate. At the time of death, the family that you have could end up receiving your estate, even if you had no intention of them receiving any of it.
As an exception to this rule, if any assets are owned jointly as beneficial joint assets they will pass automatically to your partner once you pass away. However, it is extremely unlikely that all of your assets will be handled in the same way and so, family members could benefit from your estate despite your final wishes.
A cohabiting partner will not only be unable to benefit from your estate but they will also be unable to deal with the way in which your estate is administered. The Intestacy rules will determine who receives the benefit but they will also determine who is given the legal responsibility to administer your estate, as there is no Will in place. However, if you have made a Will, you will be able to decide who administers your estate, which could include your cohabiting partner if that is your preferred choice.
If you do pass away without a Will and your partner is left with no provision under your estates, then it could result in them having to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 to enable them to receive part of your estate. This will provide your partner with the chance to receive assets but this could be challenged by those entitled to receive under the Intestacy provisions. The whole process can prove to be extremely expensive, time consuming and distressing for everyone involved. To avoid all of this and make things easier for your loved ones when you pass away, you should ensure that a Will is in place, which outlines exactly who you want to benefit from your estate.