In a world of blended families and falling marriage rates, it can’t be stressed enough the importance of unmarried couples making Wills.
Unlike for married couples, a surviving partner has no access to the matrimonial courts for provision unless on behalf of a child of the relationship. In fact, there is no such legal definition of a common law spouse because the term spouse is reserved for married couples.
Were a married person to die without putting a Will in place, their spouse would automatically inherit all personal belongings plus a statutory legacy of, currently, £270,000 (this amount is known to change). Any amount over £270,000 would be shared half to the spouse and half to the deceased’s blood children or grandchildren.
The co-owner of any jointly owned property (who may not necessarily be the spouse) would inherit the whole of that property subject to the caveat below regarding how property ownership is held.
Unmarried couples are not entitled to the personal belongings, a statutory lump sum or any share of estate assets. They would only receive joint assets IF the assets were held as joint tenants as opposed to tenants in common (the word tenants is archaic and does relate to ownership). If the property were held as tenants in common, the deceased’s share would again pass to their relatives under the Intestacy Rules.
The result in most cases is that the surviving partner either ends up owning their home alongside the deceased’s relatives (parent, sibling, child, uncles, aunties depending on who survived them) who would have all the same occupational or sale rights; or not owning the property at all with no right to continue living there – completely displaced from their own home.
The only avenue that would then be available to the surviving partner would be a claim against the estate for reasonable financial provision.
So, the importance of Wills between unmarried couples cannot be stressed enough.
For more tailored advice please contact J L Howell estate planning solicitor – Bespoke planning tailored to you.