If you are living with your partner as a spouse or civil partner but you have decided that you don’t want to get married or enter into a civil partnership, it is really important that you both make a will. If you don’t and one of you dies, it could create financial problems for the surviving partner.
It’s a myth here in the UK that “common law marriage” exists. It doesn’t. You can live with a partner for many years, but without getting married or entering into a civil partnership, you don’t have the same legal rights as a spouse or civil partner.
This also applies to your ‘next of kin’ – if you die without a will, your partner can’t automatically deal with your estate.
This is something to bear in mind when you are making a will and thinking about what will happen if you die before your partner.
For example, if you want your partner to get the house you share together, you should make that clear in your will. You and your partner may also want to consider the inheritance tax implications of leaving assets to each other and how this can be done in the most tax efficient way.
On the other hand, if you want to leave your house to someone else and not your partner, you still may need to make sure you have made allowances for your partner and they are provided for under your will.
The law does recognise that a couple’s arrangements are not always completely formal and lets a surviving partner make a claim, called a dependency claim, if they are not provided for. In this situation, it will be up to the court to decide whether your partner is entitled to a share or an asset of your estate. This can mean your estate is split in a way you would not want.
Having frank conversations about these issues will help you and your partner understand exactly what you both want to happen if one of you dies. You can then make wills that reflect that.
If you and your partner already have wills in place, it’s important to keep your wills updated so they reflect what you want.
Take the time to consider your position and your family’s circumstances. And if you own property jointly with your partner, consider how it’s owned – jointly or as tenants-in-common. As tenants-in-common, you can leave your share of the property to whoever you choose but as joint tenants your half will be transferred automatically to your partner.
Some couples do choose to make cohabitation agreements (otherwise known as ‘living together agreements’) but such agreements are not strictly binding under the law of England and Wales but the court will take them into consideration.
But these agreements only state how your assets are to be dealt with during your lifetime. They do not deal with what happens if you or your partner dies. Only a will can do this.
To find out more about making a will, call now on 0117 926 4121 or make a Free Online Enquiry.