The number of cohabiting family households has doubled in the last 25 years. However, despite this number, there is still no legislation, in England and Wales, to adequately protect cohabiting couples on death.
Unmarried couples do not have the same rights as married couples – especially when it comes to death and inheritance, no matter how long they have been together. If one partner dies without making a Will, this could leave the surviving partner without adequate financial provision since they will not inherit automatically – under what is known as the intestacy rules.
When there is no Will, the only way a surviving partner can request financial provision, from their partners estate, is by making a claim under the ‘Inheritance (Provision for Family Dependants) Act 1975. To do this, a couple must have been living together for a minimum of 2 years.
There can be further issues if children are involved as they really have a greater right to inherit. Furthermore, if they are stepchildren and it’s their natural parent who has died, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the surviving stepparent will automatically get care – regardless of how long they have lived with the children. This decision is made by the state / local authority. As a cohabiting couple, you get to make the decision since making Wills gives you and your partner the opportunity to name each other as custodians and in the event that you both die together, other custodians of your choice like close family members or friends.
Another issue that you need to be aware of is that cohabitees do not have an automatic entitlement to claim a share of their partners occupational pension – on death, unlike married couples. You will need to have been nominated as a beneficiary under the pension scheme.
For all the above reasons, it really is vital that you take time out to each make a Will. For further information on making a clear, binding Will, get in touch with the team here at Dunham McCarthy.