14 Apr Cohabitation Blog Series. Blog 3: Living together – When Life Changes
Do you live with your partner?
If so, have you ever considered what would happen if your partner died?
With cohabitants now the growing family type in the UK, this is an area you should give some serious thought to or you could end up in an extremely difficult situation.
You might think you have the same rights as a married couple or a couple in a civil partnership but this is not the case.
So what are you entitled to?
Let’s take two scenarios…
There is a Will but you’re not mentioned in it
If there is a Will, and the surviving partner is not provided for within it, the surviving partner has no right to make a claim on their partner’s estate.
Instead, the surviving partner’s estate will go to those stipulated within the Will, for example, their children.
There is no Will
If the deceased partner died without making a Will (“intestate”), then unlike married couples/civil partners, the surviving cohabitant has no automatic right to inherit any part of their partner’s estate.
However, cohabitants are entitled to make a claim if their partner dies in that scenario, as long as that claim does not exceed what they would have received had they been the spouse/civil partner of the deceased.
In what can be a shock to many, this claim has to be made within just six months of the death – a very brief timeframe when dealing with your own grief and other practicalities.
When considering whether to award a claim, the Court will use discretion to make a variety of orders. For example, the Court can order a capital sum payment to the survivor out of the deceased’s net estate or an order for the transfer of the property to the survivor The survivor can also ask for interim orders to be made, such as a monthly payment to help them get by until the court case is finally decided. That could be particularly important if the couple have children together and the survivor doesn’t work or earn as much as the deceased.
It is important to be aware that, even where a cohabiting couple jointly own their house, the title deeds should be checked to see what they provide for. It might be that the deceased’s share will not always automatically pass to the survivor (joint owner) but, instead, form part of their overall estate.
Similarly, if one partner has named the other as beneficiary in pension benefits or life assurance, the trustees of the pension scheme/insurance providers will also have a discretion and will ultimately decide who the benefits should pass to.
How can you safeguard your future?
Whether you are married or cohabiting, the only way to prevent these difficult scenarios is to prepare a Will, ensuring that your estate is distributed as you wish. This protects your partner and any children who exist.
A Will is particularly important where perhaps one of you is still married, as the estranged spouse would still have automatic rights to the deceased’s estate, along with any children they had.
Without taking this simple and affordable step, you could potentially leave behind a fraught, uncertain, and expensive legal battle between your partner, ex-spouse and children, which nobody wants,
Similarly, it is sensible to have a Cohabitation agreement prepared which clarifies your rights as a cohabiting couple – not just in relation to death but in the event of a separation.
If a cohabiting partner passes away, it is critical that legal advice is sought without delay.
If you think you would benefit from having a Cohabitation agreement prepared, contact Amanda for an initial, no-obligation chat – call 01382 219004 or 07596 322 296, or email email@example.com. Amanda can also refer you to a local solicitor specialising in Wills and other Private Client work such as Powers of Attorney.