Without a will in place, unmarried partners do not inherit anything when their partner dies, there are some exceptions though…
Is there a valid will?
When a person passes away leaving behind a partner to whom they aren’t married, in the first instance, if there is a valid will then assets will pass in accordance with the deceased’s wishes. Though this is subject to any possible challenges to the validity of the will or claims against the estate, such as in the situation where the Will was made under duress.
If there is no will the rules of intestacy apply
If the deceased has left behind no will, then the assets would pass in accordance with the intestacy rules which determine who can deal with and who inherits an estate.
- The highest in priority is a spouse (particularly relevant if cohabiting with a partner but still technically married at the date of death).
- Then, depending on the value of the estate, the children of the deceased.
- If there is no spouse then the children will inherit the whole estate and vice versa.
- If there is no spouse and no children, then parents and siblings would be entitled, followed by further, more distant relatives.
- If there are no surving relatives, the estate passes to the Crown.
Ownership of assets
Sometimes it will depend on the ownership of assets. If a property is co-owned by the cohabitees as joint tenants (as opposed to tenants in common), then the property would usually pass to the surviving co-owner. The same would happen with joint bank accounts and other joint assets unless there is any indication to the contrary.
No spouse relief for cohabitees
There may be the possibility of a bereaved partner bringing a claim against the estate depending on the circumstances at the date of death. Furthermore, the tax implications can also be significant following the death of a partner where there is no spouse relief to apply to larger estates.
The partner may also not be entitled to any pension, death in service or life insurance, again depending on the policies and any nominations in place.
Enshrine your wishes
The implications of the death of an unmarried partner can therefore be significant, cause unexpected inequality in the division of the estate and add complications to an already very distressing situation. With many people in relationships now choosing to remain unmarried, we would always advise those who share significant assets to set out in a will who they wish to pass them on to.
If you want to get your affairs in order and avoid this happening to you and your family, please contact us for an initial conversation.