Posted On / 10.11.2014

Unmarried Couple? How a Will Helps Protect your Partner's Future

Unmarried couple? How a Will helps protect your partner’s future  

By Naomi Dyer, Solicitor in the Wills and Probate Department of Battens Solicitors in Sherborne  

I’ve received a lot of enquiries from cohabiting couples. One of the key concerns is whether, when one person dies, the surviving partner can stay in their shared home or inherit the other’s savings.  

Last time we explained that new changes to the intestacy rules still do not give any rights to people cohabiting. So what do you do if you want to give your partner some protection when you die?  

Some might tell you to get married but, at the risk of sounding like a hopeless romantic, is protection on death really the prime motivator for a marriage? Leaving that aside, cohabiting couples should certainly consider what would happen to property you own together.  

The starting point is to understand how you own it. If you bought your home in joint names you would have had the option of being joint tenants or tenants in common. For everyday ownership during your lifetime, there is little or no difference between these two - but that all changes on death.  

If you are joint tenants when you die, your interest will pass to your co-owner so you may have the desired outcome. If you are tenants in common however, your partner will not automatically inherit unless you have made a Will. If you die without one, your partner could end up co-owning with your children, parents or any siblings with a possible claim on your estate. That puts your partner in a very difficult position.  

In other cases, there may be reasons why you don’t want your partner to inherit your share of the property and instead want it to go to your family. This creates the risk of your partner making a claim against the estate if you have not otherwise provided for them, especially if you have lived together for a long time.  

We are often asked if a partner is able to continue living in the home, so they have some security, even if the ownership legally passes to someone else. This is not an impossible or uncommon situation and a trust in your Will could help you achieve this.  

As always, the best advice is to speak to the experts. Battens Solicitors has been advising generations of families on all aspects of wills and trusts for more than 300 years. For an initial chat, call me on 01935 811307 or email naomi.dyer@battens.co.uk.