The rights of unmarried couples are as different to those of married couple’s rights in death as they are in life. So, what are a partner’s rights to an estate when their loved one passes away?
Our team of estate dispute lawyers will tell you that one of the most frequently asked questions they receive on our free legal helpline is, ‘What are a partner’s rights to an estate?’
As other articles on this website have explained, there is no such thing as a ‘common law spouse‘ in the UK. It is a popular misconception that unmarried couples enjoy the same level of legal protection as their married counterparts. They do not. And this is especially true when an unmarried partner passes away.
It is therefore particularly important for unmarried couples to make a Will, so they can make sure that if one of them dies, the survivor will be adequately provided for.
However, despite our best intentions many of us never actually get round to making a Will. If we die without a Will then the intestacy rules determine what will happen. So, what are a partner’s rights to an estate under the intestacy rules?
Unfortunately, the intestacy rules make no provision for unmarried partners. Parents, siblings and more distant relatives will take priority to surviving partners. This may seem very unfair. It is often contrary to what the deceased person would have wanted and frequently leads to those loved ones left behind suffering terrible financial hardship.
If your partner passes away and you find yourself in this position then we would recommend that you immediately seek guidance from a lawyer who specialises in estate disputes as there are legal steps that can be taken to ensure you are properly provided for.
One option is to make a claim under the Inheritance Act. A surviving partner can claim against their loved one’s estate if they were financially dependent on their deceased partner or if they had lived together for the last two years.
If an Inheritance Act claim is made the court has the power to change the intestacy rules, or the terms of a Will, in order to benefit the surviving partner and any children. It can for instance award a lump sum or order that a property is transferred.
When considering the question, ‘What are a partner’s rights to an estate?’ it is important to remember that not all property passes under a Will (or the intestacy rules if there is no Will). Where assets are jointly owned by the couple as ‘joint tenants’, those assets pass automatically by the legal concept of ‘survivorship’ to the surviving partner. This can include property, joint bank accounts and life assurance policies. Pension benefits can also be payable to a nominated person, including a surviving partner.
If you have recently been bereaved and left wondering, ‘What are a partner’s rights to an estate?’ then call our legal helpline for a free case assessment. We will review your options and if you have a claim we will let you know if we can help you on a No Win, No Fee basis. Call 0333 888 0404 or email brief details to us at [email protected]