In an earlier article we explained that there is no such concept of the common law wife in English law. The common law wife simply doesn’t exist; nor does the common law husband. So, what happens if my partner dies? What inheritance rights do I actually have?
Well, the headline news is that unmarried partners do not enjoy the same inheritance rights as their married counterparts. This is the case even where they have been living with their partner as ‘husband and wife’ for many years and have brought up their family together.
This can result in unforeseen and tragically unfair consequences.
We all know we should make a will, but the fact is that a huge number of us die each year intestate, ie without having made a will.
If a couple are married and one of them dies without making a will then the intestacy rules step in to protect the survivor. Under the current intestacy rules (2018) where there are children the husband, wife, or civil partner will keep all the assets (including any property), up to a maximum of £250,000, together with all personal possessions, whatever their value. In addition to this the husband, wife or civil partner will also receive half of the remainder of their spouse’s estate.
However the intestacy rules do nothing to protect unmarried partners. The surviving partner will not inherit anything. Only if they own property as ‘joint tenants’ will they automatically benefit. Instead their estate is likely to pass to any children they have or more distant family members.
This can obviously lead to severe financial hardship for the survivor and family disputes in these situations are extremely common.
So is there anything that can be done if your partner dies and you were not married?
The good news is that under the Inheritance Act you are entitled to make a claim for financial provision from your partner’s estate if you have been cohabiting with them for 2 years or more, or, alternatively, you were financially dependant upon them.
We specialise in dealing with Inheritance Act claims involving unmarried couples, representing people on a nationwide basis. We have a proven track record of successfully obtaining financial provision for unmarried men and women who would otherwise have faced hardship following their partner’s death. We are usually able to deal with claims on a no win, no fee basis.
So, if you would like to know ‘what happens if my partner dies?’ and need guidance on the inheritance rights of unmarried cohabitees call us on 0808 139 1599 for a free case assessment and details of no win, no fee funding or email us at [email protected].