How Can I Protect My Partner As An Unmarried Cohabitee?

To make a Will, or to find out more about protecting your rights as an unmarried partner, please contact us at Aticus Law for a free initial enquiry.

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By Safia Iftikhar - 26th November 2021

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If you’re not married or in a civil partnership, then your partner won’t automatically receive a share of your estate after your death. If you want them to inherit, then you must make a Will naming them as a beneficiary.

If you have sat down and discussed what you want to happen and have recorded this in a Will, you have done the best you can to protect one another.

Rights of unmarried couples

Those who are married or in a civil partnership enjoy greater legal rights and tax benefits than unmarried couples. This seems unfair, but it has always been the policy of successive governments to promote formal unions. The idea is that a family unit gives stability for the upbringing of children. Those who choose to cohabit or just fall into such an arrangement without giving it much thought do not have the same rights and protections. This is particularly worrying when it comes to the subject of death.

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What happens when my unmarried partner dies?

If you and your unmarried partner don’t make Wills and one of you dies, the intestacy laws will apply. Cohabitees are not provided for under the intestacy rules, meaning the surviving partner will not receive an inheritance. If the surviving partner is not happy with this outcome, he/she would have come to an agreement with family, or make an application to the court. If the beneficiaries under the intestacy are under the age of 18, then there can be no family settlement and a court application will be the only way forward.

However, a cohabitee cannot make a claim for capital through the courts (as a spouse can). But they can put in a claim for maintenance if their lifestyle has been detrimentally affected by their partner’s death. A court will consider what is just and equitable based on all the circumstances.

Consequences of an intestacy

Where both cohabitees are financially independent and have no children to consider, then an intestacy situation might not be too troubling. Even so, it might not align with the deceased’s wishes. If the deceased owned the domestic home in their sole name, the surviving partner may also be forced to move out.

The position is much more complicated where one party is in a stronger financial position and supporting the other, and where there are children and dependants who need to be cared for. They may be the children of that union or children from previous relationships. An accident or an illness may bring an abrupt halt to the current domestic situation usually with little notice, but great emotional turbulence.

Although a claim can be made through the courts, the paper trail to prove your case and the worry about the mounting legal costs can be overwhelming. All this can be avoided by instructing a solicitor to write a Will. Writing a Will shows that you value one another and wish to offer one another continuity and stability moving forward.

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The right to live in a property

Even if you are not leaving a gift of a house to your partner, you can give them the right to live there for the rest of their life. Similarly, even if you are not leaving them a lump sum, you can give them the right to income for life.

Speak to our Wills solicitors

We are aware that the Will writing process can cause friction where one party makes it clear that they are not leaving everything to the other. This friction can equally apply to married couples and therefore should not stop you from setting down your testamentary intentions.

Our family law solicitors are also on hand to advise on cohabitation agreements and our property team are on hand to discuss declarations of trust which define each parties’ interests in property. Prior preparation on all fronts is as important as taking out house insurance.

To make a Will, or to find out more about protecting your rights as an unmarried partner, please contact us at Aticus Law for a free initial enquiry.

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