Are you living with your partner; not married, no civil partnership, and no intention of entering into either? Well, you wouldn’t be alone. A large number of couples across the UK don’t see the need to fix something if it isn’t broken, but are unaware of consequences that may come up in the event of one partner’s death.
The Law in England and Wales when one partner dies is applied depending upon whether or not there is a will.
If there is a will then, subject to any challenges, the will dictates what happens to the deceased’s property, money, goods and chattels. Even if not married or in a civil partnership, property can be dealt with in such a way that it passes to the surviving partner.
If there isn’t a will, the law determines how much of the estate goes to their surviving partner, children and relatives. The myth of ‘common law marriage’ misleads some people to believe that on their death and after cohabiting with their partner, that surviving partner will automatically receive property, money and other goods and chattels, and they don’t need a will. Sadly, that is not the case.
Without a marriage or civil partnership, the intestacy rules mean that the surviving partner is not entitled as of right to property and goods, and that without a will they would pass to children, grandchildren or other close relatives (which can often be a complex issue). Unmarried partners or those not in a civil relationship are not included in the inheritance provisions, and could find themselves homeless and without any money or goods that they believed they would receive.
There is some good news! From February 2020 new intestacy rules will state that, if there are no children, the surviving married or civil partner will inherit the entire estate. If there are children, partners will inherit all of the deceased’s personal property, the first £270,000 of the estate and half of the remaining estate – the other half will go to their children. This is an increase on the previous sum of £250,000.00. However this only applies to married or civil partnerships; those without such protection will not automatically inherit without a will.
So, our advice – every situation is different, however leaving a will, no matter what your circumstances, will always make it easier for your relatives to deal with your estate after your death. It also means that there is certainty that your wishes will be carried out (subject to certain matters arising). If you are not married or in a civil partnership, it is even more important that you make a will, especially if you have children, so that your surviving partner is protected.
Spending some time and a small amount of money now could save your family a lot of heartache later.