One million cohabiting partners could miss out on inheritance
More than one million people are running the risk of leaving their partners with nothing when they die, because they haven’t made a will stating what should happen to their estate.
As the law stands, if somebody dies intestate – without a will - then their assets will be inherited by their spouse or civil partner, even if the relationship has been over for a long time.
This could mean an estranged wife or husband inherits a person’s estate instead of their partner.
If the person who dies didn’t have a spouse or civil partner, then their estate would be inherited by their children.
This could leave co-habiting or same-sex partners with absolutely nothing, and leave them in serious financial distress in what is already an emotionally difficult time.
Another potential issue could be if a couple live together and have children but aren’t married. Should one of them die, then their assets would be passed on to their children, but could be held in trust until the children reach the age of 18. That could mean the family are not able to access vital funds for several years.
The Law Society has urged people to make sure they have a valid and up-to-date will in place, so that if the worst does happen, they know their loved ones will be secure.
The government recently made updates to the Inheritance and Trustees' Powers Act 2014 to increase protection for spouses and civil partners.
However, co-habiting couples are still in a vulnerable position within the current law.
Some legal experts have criticised the government’s inability to keep the law in line with the changing structure of family dynamics.
Whatever the circumstances are within your family, the only way to ensure your assets are divided as you wish and your loved ones are taken care of, is to make a will that clearly states your intentions.
Please contact Nigel Gibson-Birch if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any other aspect of inheritance law.