Marriage is not for everyone. You may decide to live with your partner without ever tying the knot. But if you do, you may want to prepare for what happens if one of you suddenly passes away, to ensure the other partner is financially protected. So what are unmarried couples’ inheritance rights?
The British government lends a lot of protections to married couples and civil partners. Your husband/wife or civil partner has rights to inherit your estate, if you die without making a will, under the UK’s rules of intestacy. Your partner has these rights even if you informally separated beforehand, and anything you pass to them, whether you made a will or not, is exempt from inheritance tax.
However, your partner does not have any automatic legal rights to inherit your estate, if they were not your civil partner or married to you. We should note that they may be able to make a claim on your estate. If your partner chooses to go down this route, they will need to claim a discretionary right, as a non-relative, from your estate. This grant can be very difficult to obtain, and to do so they will need to write to the Treasury Solicitor’s Office, proving that they had a close relationship with you.
Clearing up confusion
We want to clear up some confusion. Some people believe that if you have a ‘common law marriage,’ where you act like a married couple but your union is not legally recognised, then your partner has automatic inheritance rights. This is false, as common law marriages are not recognised under UK law, so if you have one, you partner will not be automatically entitled to inherit anything from you.
Of course, if you have a common law marriage, and you partner can provide proof of this to the Treasury Solicitor’s Office, they may be able to get a discretionary grant. As we mentioned, discretionary grants can be difficult to obtain. There are no guarantees that your partner will be able to make a claim by writing to the Treasury Solicitor’s Office, even if you had a common law marriage.
Protecting your partner
The only way to make sure that you partner will definitely inherit from your estate when you pass away, if you are not married, is to write a will. A will is a legal document, where you detail how you wish for the assets in your estate (e.g. money, property) to be divided up when you die. There is nothing, under UK law, which stops you from making an unmarried partner a beneficiary in your will.
We would advise you in certain circumstances, however, to go one step further by making a mirror will. Here you and your partner create two almost identical wills – hence the term ‘mirror,’ where you pledge to pass your whole estate to your partner if you de first and they do the same. This allows you to safeguard your partner’s financial future if you are not married, giving you peace of mind.
Prestige Tax and Trust Services
You can protect your unmarried partner’s inheritance rights by making a will, but otherwise they may stand to inherit nothing when you pass away. You may want to hire experts to help you craft your will, so they can use their legal knowledge to ensure it safeguards your partner’s rights effectively. Prestige Tax and Trust Services would be happy to help. Our team is very experienced when it comes to will writing, so we can draw up the document you need to ensure your partner can rely on financial stability, if you are not married and you pass away, allowing you both to rest easy in future.