A reader asks whether not having a will, will affect his partner of 6 years will inherit should he die unexpectedly.
My partner and I have been together for 6 years and although we’re not civilly married, I was wondering what our rights were in case of an accident or death. We currently rent and don’t own our house, but we do have various other assets such as stocks and savings. Neither of us have made a will. What would happen to the surviving partner if the worst was to happen? Would my assets go directly to him?
Thank you for your time
The simple answer is no. Currently, co-habiting partners have no (automatic) legal right to inherit assets from their partner’s estate unless provision is made for them in their partner’s will.
Only assets that are held in joint names (such as joint bank accounts) will pass to the surviving partner automatically by ‘survivorship’ and simply require the removal of the deceased partner’s name from the account; such assets are not affected by the presence (nor contents) of any Will.
In cases where the deceased partner left no will (or a defective/invalid will) all assets held in the deceased partner’s sole name will pass according to the Intestacy Rules. These rules stipulate who will inherit the estate in a strict order of priority of relatives – spouse/civil partner, children, parents, siblings and so on and so forth. Co-habiting partners do not feature in this list!
My advice would be to always seek professional advice from a solicitor to create appropriate wills to ensure that your loved ones left behind are not unwittingly disinherited through your inaction.
You should also be conscious of the inheritance tax implications of remaining unmarried or not in a civil partnership. The transfer of assets after death may trigger an inheritance tax liability, as executors would be unable to claim valuable exemptions, such as the spouse exemption.
This response is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice, and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice relevant to particular circumstances. Individuals should always seek legal advice from a professional which is specific to their unique set of circumstances.
This article was updated on the 16th November 2018
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