The most recent report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on the make-up of households in the UK has shown that more couples than ever are choosing to cohabit without getting married. In ‘Families and Households: 2017′, the ONS found that there are 3.3 million cohabiting families in Britain, a figure that is more than double the number reported in 1996. These findings confirm that cohabiting families, that is partners living together either with or without dependent children, are the fastest growing family type in the UK.
Despite this increase, many cohabitees are unaware that problems can arise in the future as a result of the legal status afforded to, or more accurately not afforded to, cohabiting couples. As the law currently stands, cohabiting partners have very few rights. This means that if one partner dies without leaving a will, their estate will be shared out according to the rules of intestacy. These are standard legal rules that set out who should get what when a person dies, provided that they have not left a will that sets out their own preferences about how their money, property and possessions should be distributed. In most cases, the estate of someone who dies intestate will pass to their next of kin, a category that does not currently include a cohabiting partner.
The most obvious reason for cohabitees to write a will is the certainty and security that doing so will afford to their partner. Having a valid will ensures that their estate will be distributed in the way that they wish, rather than according to the rules of intestacy. This means that their partner will be provided for after they are gone, as well as ensuring issues such as whether they can continue to live in the family home will be settled simply and straightforwardly. Having a valid will also avoids the need for a partner having to make a claim for provision against the deceased person’s estate, something which can be extremely distressing at an already very difficult time.
Another benefit of estate planning for cohabiting couples are the savings that can be made in terms of tax liabilities. Married couples and civil partners currently enjoy tax benefits that are not available to cohabiting couples, allowing them to transfer ownership of assets between them without the need to pay tax. Similarly, married couples can take ownership of their spouse’s property without the obligation to pay inheritance tax. Again, this is not something that is available to cohabitees. Having a valid will can help you to plan for this, for example by setting up a trust, therefore minimising your partner’s tax liabilities after your death.
Our estate planning solicitors offer a comprehensive service in all areas of estate planning and can talk you through the process of writing your will in a clear, jargon-free manner. If you are looking to make arrangements in regards to property, savings or a business, our estate planning solicitors offer a high-level professional service tailored to your needs.
We advise clients based in London, Sheffield and Manchester and across England and Wales. Contact us today on 0808 168 5813 to find out how we can help you.