Inheritance: Rights for unmarried couples

27 January 2012

The Law Commission published a consultation paper in October 2009 discussing reforms to the intestacy rules and family provision on death. After over 150 responses and further supplementary consultations in 2011, the Law Commission’s final report was released on 14 December (Law Com No 311 - www.lawcom.gov.uk).

Perhaps the most notable of the recommendations relates to the rights of unmarried cohabiting couples in the event that one of them dies intestate. The Law Commission is recommending that unmarried couples who have cohabited for a period of five years or more, or if they have a child, cohabited for at least two years, should share in their deceased partner’s estate without having to make an application to the Court under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

This change, if implemented, would give unmarried couples similar rights to married couples when one partner dies without leaving a Will. It is suggested that this recommendation is necessary to “reflect the growing prevalence and public acceptance of cohabitation”, with over 2.3 million unmarried couples now living together in intimate relationships.

For further information about rights of cohabiting couples, please contact the family department on 020 7814 1200.

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On July 12th 2012 Ryan Mowat commented:

I’m sorry to hear of your loss. I specialise in will and probate claims and understand the questions you rightly raise. It is not correct to automatically assume that you are not entitled to a share of Peter’s estate just because (a) you were not married and (b) he did not make a provision for you in his will. As a partner who lived with Peter for more than 2 years you would potentially be entitled to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 provided that it is less than 6 months since the grant of probate was obtained. The court would take many factors into account if you decide to bring a claim under this basis, including those that you refer to in your query. Should you wish to discuss this further or have any other questions, please do call me on 020 7814 1238. Thanks, Ryan Mowat, Partner at Kingsley Napley.

On July 4th 2012 Josie Jones commented:

my partner (Peter) and I lived together for eight an half years, but he made a will before we met and never got around to changing it.Peter died recently and the will states that all his monies is to be shared between his children.Peter was unemployed for three an half years before he died and because I worked full-time I had to keep him (which I did willingly) but now I'm told that I am not entitled to anything as we were not married.
I have been told that I may be entitled to widows pension as I am 56yrs old and Peter was 58.
Could you please advice me if this is correct, or not.
Ypurs Truely
Josie Jones

We welcome views and opinions about the issues raised in this blog. Should you require specific advice in relation to personal circumstances, please use the form on the contact page.

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