Wills & Power of Attorney
Why cohabiting couples must consider estate planning
Millions of couples across the UK are choosing to forego marriage and live as cohabitees.
However, without proper estate planning, they could be putting their finances at risk. Unlike those who are married or in civil partnerships, cohabitees have no automatic right to inherit from each other. However, with proper estate planning, you can ensure your partner is properly provided for should you pass away.
Write a will
The most straightforward way to provide for your partner after you pass away is to write a will. Regardless of how long you have been in a relationship, without a will in place there is no way to ensure your partner will receive a share of your assets when you die.
What happens if there is no will?
When a person dies without a will, their estate will be distributed in line with default rules dictated by pre-set laws. Sadly, for cohabiting couples, this can mean that the surviving cohabitee loses their home and a source of income. The surviving cohabitee may need to embark in costly litigation by making an application to the court to get a share of the family home and may even end up in a difficult legal battle with any children or other family members.
As a result, it is essential that you discuss with your partner what you wish to happen to your property after you pass away and instruct a specialist lawyer to draft a will for each of you.
What should cohabitees include in their wills?
What cohabitees will need to include in their will depends on their circumstances and whether you have any children, either from previous relationships or together. Children can complicate inheritance matters, and you should seek legal advice on your specific circumstances.
Manzurul Islam, Head of Wills and Probate, said:
“The importance of having a will in place cannot be understated. There is rarely a good reason not to have a will and its benefits are many. As well as dictating how your wealth passes, a properly drafted will could help reduce or eliminate your estate’s tax liability, leaving more for your partner and loved ones.
“To ensure that your partner is provided for after you pass away, your will should include details of:
- Who is to inherit your estate
- Who will be involved in your estate after you pass away. If you choose to appoint your partner as an executor they will control how your estate is administered.
- Whether your partner should have the right to continue living in the property after you pass away
- Any wishes about money, for example leaving cash gifts to ensure your partner has enough money to live on.
- Specific wishes about possessions, such as a car or even sentimental items.
“There are many estate planning matters cohabiting couples should discuss; however, ensuring you have properly drafted Wills in place is the first step.”