Sarah White, Thompson Smith and Puxon Wills and Estates Solicitor, discusses how the law currently stands for cohabiting couples when one of them dies without leaving a Will.

It is a common misconception that cohabiting couples have the same rights as married couples and those in civil partnerships.  Unfortunately this is not the case and cohabiting couples do not have any automatic entitlement to their partner’s estate on death.  Even if you have lived together for many years your partner may be left with nothing if you have not made a Will.

Cohabiting couple families are the fastest growing type of family in the UK and it was hoped that the laws of intestacy which changed on 1 October 2014 would provide protection for cohabitees.  However, the new laws still do not provide protection for cohabiting couples or their children.  This still potentially leaves the survivor cohabitee and the children in a very difficult position if the deceased partner did not make a Will.  It is therefore still  important for cohabiting couples to make Wills in order to protect their partner’s financial position, and that of any children they may have.

As the law currently stands a surviving partner (where the deceased partner did not make a Will) would be entitled to bring a claim for financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 provided that they had been cohabiting in the same household, as husband and wife, for a period of two years immediately before the death.  This means that those couples cohabiting for less than two years will have no entitlement to make a claim.  Where such a claim can be made, the Court can make orders similar to those granted in divorce cases such as lump sum orders and maintenance.  Pursuing an Inheritance Act claim is not only expensive but also takes time.  In addition, it can be distressing for the partner making the claim and cause rifts between other family members who would otherwise have benefitted under the laws of intestacy.  There are also strict time constraints involved as a claim must be made within six months of the Grant of Representation being issued by the Probate Registry.

For more information and advice on the subject Sarah can be contacted on 01255 254265 or by email on sarah.white@tsplegal.com