Changing attitudes towards marriage have resulted in more couples choosing to live together without getting married than ever before. Unfortunately for these couples, they could find themselves in legal hot water if the relationship breaks down or one partner dies without making a will.
Lulled into a false sense of security by the phrase ‘common law marriage’, many individuals avoid making a will on the assumption that their partner will automatically inherit all of their assets. Regardless of the length of the relationship, UK law does not award any legal status to a ‘common law marriage’, so it is in your best interests as a cohabitee to make a will.
Creating a will can give both of you peace of mind in case the unthinkable does happen. A will is a legally binding document setting out your wishes, minimising the risk of unnecessary distress at an already difficult time. Here are three reasons why all cohabiting couples should make a will.
Ensure Your Assets Are Divided According to Your Wishes
Married couples have certain legal rights which protect both parties financially. Even if a married person has not made a will, their partner will automatically inherit some or all of their assets. Cohabiting couples do not have this legal protection, so if one partner has not made a will, it is likely that the other will not be able to make a claim to any assets which are not jointly owned. This could potentially leave the surviving partner in a difficult financial situation. Without a will, your assets will be divided according to intestacy rules rather than your wishes, meaning it could be your parents, siblings or other family members who inherit your estate.
Keep a Shared or Family Home Secure
Cohabiting couples who own a home jointly can, in most cases, claim full ownership of a property automatically if their partner has not left a will. Problems sometimes arise when couples own property as tenants in common or one partner owns the family home. Regardless of how long you live in a property as a couple, if your partner is not named on the deeds or in your will, they will lose their right to keep living there if you die. Many couples choose to buy property as tenants in common to reflect their individual shares of the home. In this case, your share will be inherited by your closest living family member if you do not have a will. If you wish for your partner to inherit your share, they must be named in a will.
Avoid Disputes Between Family Members
Disputes about money can turn even the most amicable family relationships frosty. If your estate transfers to a parent, sibling, or child from another marriage, it can be very difficult for your partner to claim from it. Probate disputes can be very costly, time consuming and distressing for all involved, and the uncertainty only exacerbates what is already a difficult time. Making a will means that your partner and your family will be clear about what your wishes are, and there is less of a risk of family relationships turning negative.
Many people fall in to the trap of thinking that they don’t need to make a will because they don’t have enough assets or they are too young. A will can help avoid the common legal problems faced by cohabiting couples by making your wishes clear; thus ensuring additional distress and financial hardship are minimised.
Although you can make a will yourself, it’s always best to get specialist help to ensure it is complete and legally binding. With the LawOn app, getting that specialist help is easy, convenient and clear. Sign up now to keep in the loop and be notified about the launch.