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Estate Planning: Cohabiting Couples



Across the UK couples are increasingly making the decision to live as cohabitees rather than get married. Contrary to popular belief, “common law partners” are not legally recognised in English law. What that means is, unlike their married counterparts, unmarried couples do not have the benefit of automatic inheritance rights. That is why it is more important than ever that cohabiting couples make estate planning arrangements.


The simplest way to provide for your partner should you pass away is to have a Will in place. Regardless of the number of years you have been together, if you do not have a Will in place, there is no way you can ensure your partner will inherit any of your money and/or property when you pass.


If you do not have a Will when you die, your assets pass according to the rules of intestacy. Unfortunately, these rules do not provide for cohabiting couples, so your partner could stand to lose the family home and their source of income (if you supported him/her financially). Your surviving partner could find themselves needing to apply to the court to claim a share in your estate, and depending on your own family’s situation, your partner could find themselves in a difficult legal battle with your own family members and/or children. As you can see, it is essential that you and your partner discuss how each of you want your assets to be dealt with when you pass away and instruct a specialist solicitor to draft a Will for you both.


There are various considerations that ought to be had in terms of estate planning, which of course depends on your individual circumstances, such as whether you own property together or separately and whether you have children together or separately. These are common instances that tend to complicate inheritance matters, so it is vital that you seek professional legal advice to make arrangements that suit your individual needs.


To make sure your partner is provided for when you pass your Will should, among other things, include:

  • To whom your estate is to be distributed;

  • Who will be responsible for administering your estate (eg, you may want to name your surviving partner as Executor);

  • Specific wishes in relation to your property (eg, you may want your surviving partner to remain living in the family home);

  • Specific wishes in relation to your money (eg, you may want to provide sufficient funds for your surviving partner to live off);

  • Specific wishes in relation to your personal possessions (eg, you may want to leave your car or other sentimental items to your surviving partner).


Cohabiting couples don’t leave your partner broken hearted and empty handed when you pass away. Take the first step now: contact Thompson Budd today to have proper Wills drawn up to ensure you are each included in one another’s estates.

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