Why cohabitees should make a Will
According to the Office of National Statistics the number of cohabiting families has grown by 25.8% in the last decade. In 2018 they made up nearly a fifth of the 19.1 million families in the UK.
Solicitors act for many clients who are cohabitees and there is still misconception that the phrase “common law” husband or wife has legal relevance and provides your partner with automatic rights. As a Solicitor that acts in the preparation of Wills and Administration of Estates I can quite unequivocally state, no it does not.
If you cohabit with someone and you want them to benefit on your death the only way you can do this with any certainty is to make a Will. Even if you hold assets together in your joint names it is still important to make a Will as you can never assume the law will apply to your situation in the way you think it does.
A common example is that a client and their partner have lived together for a number of years in a property that my client owns in their sole name as they bought it before they met their partner. Everything has been fine all these years who wants to spoil it by talking about what happens if my client should die? But what does happen when they die? They might want their partner to have the house, they might want them to be able to live there as long as they want but ultimately they want their children to have it, they might want to allow their partner to live there for a while but not indefinitely; all of these may be reasonable but none of those outcomes are guaranteed without a Will. If they died without a Will the house will pass to their family under the intestacy rules; it could mean that the children inherit it or their parents or siblings inherit and they may be happy to arrange for the partner to stay but maybe they won’t. The only way to have any certainty is to grasp the nettle and make a Will!
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