In an earlier article we explained that there is no such thing as ‘the common law wife‘ (or husband) in English law. So, what happens if my partner dies? What inheritance rights do I actually have?
Well, the key point to take on board is that unmarried partners do not have 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 (2020) where there are children the husband, wife, or civil partner will inherit:
- all the personal possessions and belongings of their spouse; and
- the first £270,000 of the estate; and
- half of the remaining estate.
However the intestacy rules do not protect unmarried partners in the same way way. 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 their partner has 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.