Having a will in place is essential to ensuring your estate gets passed to loved ones and family in line with your exact wishes. However, if you’re living with a partner and not legally married or in a civil partnership, then you won’t actually be entitled to inherit anything if your partner was to pass away.

Creating legally binding wills is required for couples like this, who wish to provide for each other or their partner’s children in the event of their death.

What are the rules for unmarried couples?

It’s fair to say that there are far more unmarried cohabiting couples in the UK than ever before, and with so many people in this situation it can be easy to assume that the law will have you covered if your partner was to die. However, couples who aren’t married or in a civil partnership can actually be left in a tricky situation financially should the worst happen.

Under intestacy rules, which are a set of rules dictating who stands to inherit what you own if you pass away without a will, a surviving partner would not be entitled to receive anything if no marriage or civil partnership has taken place. Obviously this can lead to serious financial problems coupled with the distress of losing a loved one.

Any children of the surviving partner would also not be provided for in this situation, under current intestacy rules. Plus if the surviving partner is not appointed as an Executor of your will, or there’s no will at all, they might not get any say in any funeral arrangements.

How does property work in the case of unmarried couples?

There are two ways of jointly owning a property regardless of whether your married, in a civil partnership or just living together, and this can affect who will inherit your share of the property.

For couples just living together and registered as Tenants in Common, any property shares of the deceased partner wouldn’t automatically go to the surviving partner. If no will was in place then the property shares of the deceased partner would go to next of kin, for example parents.

When couples just living together are registered as Joint Tenants, they will both have equal rights to the whole property. It would automatically go to the surviving partner if the other was to pass away. In this case, no will is required for one partner to legally inherit the entire property, so it’s always worth checking your property ownership details with your partner. However, if there is an outstanding joint mortgage, the surviving partner would need to re-apply for it in their sole name, and the property would need to be sold if they can’t afford the payments.

What about children?

When couples living together have children but aren’t married or in a civil partnership, and one or both of them passes away without a will, the children will legally stand to inherit everything. For children who are under the age of 18, any inheritance will be placed into trust until they come of age.

Keep in mind that without a will, the surviving partner will not be able to have direct access to anything that’s being held in trust. If your partner is dependant on you financially, this could lead to serious problems.

A will can benefit unmarried couples

For couples who aren’t married or in a civil partnership, making a will is necessary in order to secure the financial future you would wish for your partner, should the worst happen.

With a will you can choose your Executors and they will be legally responsible for ensuring that your specific wishes are carried out, from the beneficiaries to the arrangements for your funeral.

Specifying in a will how you wish your partner to benefit from your estate in the event of your death is definitely required if you’re just living together, otherwise they could legally be left with nothing.

If you have questions about your will, inheritance tax, or the process of Probate, then Clarke Bell is here for you.

Our authorised and regulated non-contentious probate practitioners have years of experience helping people with the Grant of Probate or the full probate process, and we pride ourselves on providing a tailored, affordable, friendly and professional service.

For free initial advice, contact us now on 0161 907 4044 or [email protected]