Article written by Daniela Koceva, Solicitor, Private Client department
Across the UK, millions of couples are deciding to forego marriage and live as cohabitees. However, without proper estate planning, they could be putting their finances at risk. Unlike their married counterparts, unmarried couples have no automatic right to inherit from each other. With considered estate planning, you can ensure your cohabiting partner is properly provided for should you pass away. This article looks at some of the important estate planning matters all cohabiting couples should consider.
Write a Will
The most straightforward way to provide for your partner should you pass away, is to write a Will. No matter how long you and your partner have been together, without a Will in place, there is no way to ensure your partner will receive a share of your assets when you die.
What happens if there is no Will?
When a person dies without a Will, their estate will be distributed in line with the rules of intestacy. Sadly, for cohabiting couples, this can mean the surviving cohabitee loses their home and a source of income. The surviving cohabitee may need to make an application to the court to get a share of the family home and may even end up in a difficult legal battle with any children or other family members.
As a result, it is essential that you discuss with your partner what you wish to happen to your property after you pass away and instruct a specialist lawyer to draft a Will for each of you.
What should cohabitees include in their wills?
What cohabitees will need to include in their Will depends on their circumstances and whether you have any children, either from previous relationships or together. Children can complicate inheritance matters, and you should seek legal advice on your specific circumstances.
However, to ensure your partner is provided for after you pass away, you should include:
- Details of who is to inherit your estate;
- Who will be involved in your estate after you pass away? You should ensure your partner has a right to be involved in your estate – you may wish to appoint them as an executor;
- Any wishes for your property. For example, you may wish to set out that you want your partner to continue living in the property after you pass away;
- Any wishes about money. Setting out your wishes regarding money allows you to ensure your partner has enough money to live on;
- Specific wishes about possessions. You should include details about who will inherit particular possessions, such as a car or sentimental items.
There are many estate planning matters cohabiting couples should discuss. However, ensuring you have properly drafted Wills in place is the first step.
If you wish to discuss anything further or for specific advice on Wills and estate management, please feel free to email me or contact me on 020 8858 6971.