Wills for cohabiting couples have always been a prominent issue in view of the need to protect your partner’s interests. Laura Richardson’s latest article explains why writing your Will should always be an essential consideration in such cases . . .
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), around one-fifth of family units in the UK are currently made up of non-married cohabiting couples. The number of non-married cohabiting couples has risen significantly over the last decade with a 25.8% increase recorded by the ONS from 2008 to 2018! As if to echo this cultural shift, Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds have made history by becoming the first unmarried couple to live together in 10 Downing Street!
With cohabiting continuing to rapidly rise in popularity throughout England and Wales, it is important to acknowledge the legal differences for unmarried couples when it comes to what will happen to their assets when they die. Unfortunately, despite the widely held belief to the contrary, legally, there is no such thing as ‘Common Law Marriage’. Cohabitating couples have no real legal status under the law of England and Wales. This can cause innumerable problems should one member of a cohabiting couple die without having made a valid Will. Under the law of England and Wales, if anyone dies without making a valid Will, then their assets are passed on according to the law of Intestacy and the surviving partner has no automatic rights to inherit any of their estate. Therefore, the writing for Wills for cohabiting couples is of fundamental importance.
Further information on exactly who can inherit from the Estate of someone who died intestate can be find at https://www.gov.uk/inherits-someone-dies-without-will.
Furthermore dying intestate could also have severe implications regarding any property that is owned between you and your unmarried partner. Generally speaking there are two ways in which property is owned between two parties in the UK. Firstly the property can be owned “jointly” which means that should one of the joint owners die, the remaining share of the property is automatically transferred to the surviving owner. However, the alternative form of shared ownership is when the property is owned by the two parties as “tenants in common”. Under this form of ownership, should one of the parties die intestate, their share would revert into their Estate and be distributed according to the laws of intestacy and again the surviving party would have no legal recourse to appeal against this decision. This can cause financial and emotional difficulties for the surviving party who would find themselves sharing the ownership of a property with one or more beneficiaries who may even force the sale of the property in order to realise their inheritance in a more useful form. The last thing any of us would want is to see our loved one forced to sell our family home in the midst of dealing with the tragedy of your death.
It is, therefore, exceptionally important to ensure that if you choose to cohabit with your partner rather than marry, that you protect them by making a legally valid Will. In the current circumstances, there has never been a better time to ensure that Wills for cohabiting couples are written to protect both yours and your partner’s interests.
Andrew Douglas Wills & Legal Services are currently offering a fully remote service in order to be able to offer our full range of services in a safe manner in accordance with the current Social Distancing requirements. Whether in Maldon or across England and Wales, if you would like further information regarding writing Wills for cohabiting couples and to arrange your free initial consultation, contact Andrew Douglas Wills & Legal Services today.
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