Cohabitants and the Law

Unmarried partners living together can be leaving each other unprovided for if they do not Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney.

Many people believe that unmarried couples have similar legal rights to married couples, or consider themselves to be ‘common law’ spouses. However, under current legislation, unmarried couples (whether of the same or different sexes), do not have any automatic legal rights if one of them dies, regardless of the length of time that they have lived together or whether they have children together.

As a result, if one party dies without a Will then his or her estate will be divided according to the Intestacy Rules. The Intestacy Rules make no provision for an unmarried partner to receive any share in an estate and the deceased’s estate will instead pass to his or her children, parents, siblings or other relatives. The surviving partner will then have to consider making a claim against the estate of their deceased partner which can be costly, time consuming and stressful.

If you own a property (or a share of a property held in joint names) you should consider whether you want your partner to inherit your share of that property, or whether you wish it to pass to somebody else.  If you have children, you may wish to provide for those children to benefit from your share in the property, whilst also enabling your partner to continue living in the house rent free until he or she has also died or moved out.  Your Will can be prepared to ensure the survivor’s occupation of the property is protected, whilst also making provision for your children in the future.

A Will can also appoint guardians for minor children as unmarried father’s may not have parental responsibility.

It is also important to consider making Lasting Powers of Attorney. If an individual loses capacity then most people assume that their partner or children will automatically have the legal right to deal with their financial matters and medical decisions. This is not the case and you would need to appoint someone to deal with these matters on your behalf. There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney, to deal with property and finances and health and welfare matters.  Under the Lasting Power of Attorney for property and financial affairs, your attorney(s) can help manage financial matters including managing bank accounts, paying bills, making investments and selling and purchasing property. Under the Lasting Power of Attorney for health and welfare your attorney(s) can make decisions about your medical treatment, what type of care you receive and where you live if you become unable to make these decisions yourself.

It can often be helpful to discuss the issues relevant to each individual, in order to establish the best way to make provision for all concerned. We can advise you in an appropriate and practical manner and ensure that your wishes are recorded in your Will and your Lasting Power of Attorney is set up in the most practical way. Please contact us on 0844 567 2222 by email at or visit our website if you would like to discuss your requirements.

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