A recent survey by the National Consumer Council has shown that only 17 per cent of people living together unmarried in the UK have written a Will. This is despite warnings to cohabitants that they are not protected under the inheritance rules and their partners will not automatically inherit their partner’s estate should they pass away.
The ‘rules of intestacy’, which outline how a person’s estate will be distributed should someone die without a Will, were simplified in 2014 with the introduction of the Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014. The Act reinforced the position of married couples and civil partners, but did nothing to address the position of cohabitants.
Unmarried couples are still in a vulnerable position as when a cohabitant dies without a Will, under the intestacy rules, it’s unlikely that their partner will inherit their estate and this is especially the case if the couple has children, as the children will take priority.
Find out more about the Act in our article ‘Cohabitees still get nothing under new inheritance reforms’.
Possible intestacy law reforms in the future
Despite the Office for National Statistics finding that cohabiting families are the “fastest growing family type in the UK”, there are no definite plans by the Ministry of Justice to reform the intestacy laws in order to protect unmarried couples.
However, the government is currently pushing for the Cohabitation Rights Bill, which had its second reading on 12 December 2014. Lady Baroness Deech is campaigning strongly for cohabitation and marriage rights to be mirrored as “couples may be trying out a relationship and we should not impose the penalties of a failed marriage”. But the government has faced criticism from pro-marriage campaigners.
Whatever the future of the Bill, it’s imperative that cohabitants protect themselves by writing a Will, and it doesn’t have to be expensive and difficult. With Lawpack you can write a Will from as little as £9.99, with our DIY Will Kit. Or we have teamed up with Irwin Mitchell solicitors to provide our Online Will Service, which can help you write your own Will easily online.
Andrew Capon, Law Society Presidents has said, “don’t make this mess, your legacy”. So protect yourself today.