…..but what happens when your partner dies?

Many people still believe in the so called ‘common law marriage myth’, which is the erroneous belief that after a certain amount of time of living together, the law treats cohabitants as if they were married. This is not a legal reality. One shocking example of this is that on the death of a partner, cohabitants do not automatically inherit from their partner and can end up with nothing. This includes engaged couples who may wait several years to get married.

With cohabitation becoming increasingly a more popular choice for couples, studies have shown it is now the fastest growing family type in England and Wales. In 2021 figures show there were around 3.6 million cohabiting couples in the UK which compared to 1.5 million in 1996. This shows how much this way of living has grown in just 25 years.

A group of cross-party MPs are calling for cohabitation law reform saying that cohabiting couples have “inferior” protections to those who are married or within a civil partnership.

It’s often women who suffer more in these circumstances. She may be left without any rights to live in the house she has treated as home, or she may be left with no financial provision for living costs.

A partner may be able to make a claim against the estate as a ‘dependent’, but this is likely to be costly, distressing and time consuming.

What can you do?
The easiest and simplest thing to do is make Wills. You can give each other rights of inheritance and the authority to deal with the estate (as executor), in the same way as if you were married.

We may have a long wait until the law is adapted to the social reality of modern cohabiting relationships. In the meantime, it’s possible to protect yourself and your family with a Will.

For more information about what to include in your Will, contact Jenny Fothergill at APS Legal Beverley.