Are you an unmarried couple, concerned about providing for one another after death? You are right to take action on this, because if you are not married and you died without a Will, your partner would have no automatic right to receive anything from your estate, which could put them in a difficult financial position. Wills for unmarried couples are essential in order to protect each other’s financial position, otherwise the law may fail to recognise your relationship.
Couples who live together but are not married are the fastest growing family type in the UK, according to the Office of National Statistics. There are apparently now over 6 million unmarried, cohabiting couples in the UK. Despite a widely-held belief in ‘common law marriage’, there is in fact no such thing as a ‘common law spouse’ in English law. Even if you and our partner have been cohabiting for many years, or own a house together, without a Will you may still inherit nothing if your partner dies. When it comes to the death of an unmarried partner, love is not enough – you must have a Will.
Your partner may be able to make a claim against your estate if you have not left a Will providing for them, but that is an uncertain and expensive process. Depending on how your family is made up, without a Will, your assets would instead pass to your children (if any) equally at age 18, whom failing to your parents, whom failing to your siblings.
If you are an unmarried couple it is perhaps even more important for you to make Wills than for a married couple, because the law at least offers a degree of protection for a spouse or civil partner in the event of one person dying, whereas under our rather outdated legal system, an unmarried partner may not be entitled to anything on death.
If you and/or your partner have children from previous relationships, you may like to consider using a life interest trust in your Will. This way, you can ensure that your partner is well provided-for during their lifetime, but that on death, your assets pass to your own children, as you have always intended. See ‘Wills for Second Marriages‘ for more information about how this works. The general principles are very similar, although as ever, the inheritance tax treatment is less favourable for unmarried couples.
In summary, if you and your partner aren’t married and you want to provide for each other on death, it is crucial that you make Wills.