Cohabiting Couples – what rights do they have when one of them dies?

Cohabiting Couples – what rights do they have when one of them dies?

26th August 2021

A common misconception for partners who are not married or in a civil partnership, is that they have automatic rights to each other’s assets should one of them die.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  The only assets a partner would receive are jointly owned assets or assets given to them by a Will.

If a partner dies without leaving a Will, then rules, called the intestacy rules, state who inherits their assets and there are no automatic rights for couples who are not married or in a civil partnership to inherit, regardless of the length of their relationship.  This could leave a partner in a difficult and uncertain situation.

The intestacy rules do not allow for modern families because as well as not providing for partners, they do not provide for stepchildren (only natural or adopted children).  Married or civil partners take priority (although they do not always receive everything), then children, parents, siblings then other relatives.  These are not always the people who you would wish to inherit your assets.   

Assets owned jointly, will usually pass automatically to the surviving owner regardless of the provisions of a Will or the intestacy rules, but only if the joint asset is owned as ‘joint tenants’.  Many do not realise that if you own a joint asset as ‘tenants in common’ then it will not automatically pass to the survivor and passes in accordance with a Will or the intestacy rules.

Whatever your circumstances, it is always important to take legal advice and complete a Will to make sure your loved ones are protected.  Please get in contact with our friendly Private Client Department who would be happy to talk you through the best advice to suit your circumstances.