Personal Law
March 18, 2021

Why cohabiting couples must consider estate planning

Millions of couples across the UK are choosing to forego marriage and live as cohabitees. However, without proper estate planning, they could be putting their financial security at risk. Unlike their married counterparts, unmarried couples have no automatic right to inherit from each other. However, with proper estate planning, you can ensure your cohabiting partner is properly provided for should you pass away.

This article looks at some of the important estate planning matters all cohabiting couples should consider.

Write a Will

The most straightforward way to provide for your partner should you pass away, is to write a Will. No matter how long you and your partner have been together, without a Will in place, there is no way to ensure that your partner will receive a share of your assets when you die.

What happens if there is no Will?

When a person dies without a Will, their estate will be distributed in line with the prescribed rules of intestacy. These rules do not make any provision for unmarried couples.

Sadly, for cohabiting couples, this can mean that the surviving cohabitee loses their home, savings, other assets and source of income. The surviving cohabitee may need to make an application to the court to get a share of the family home and may even end up in a difficult legal battle with any children or other family members.

As a result, it is essential that you discuss with your partner what you wish to happen to your property after you pass away and instruct a private client lawyer to draft a Will for each of you.

What should cohabitees include in their Wills?

What cohabitees will need to include in their Will depends on their circumstances and whether you have any children, either from previous relationships or together. Children can complicate inheritance matters, and you should seek legal advice on your specific circumstances.

However, to ensure that your partner is provided for after you pass away, you should include:

• Details of who is to inherit your estate

• Who will be involved in or have the power to administer your estate after you pass away. You should ensure your partner has a right to be involved in your estate; you may wish to appoint them as an executor.

• Any wishes for your property. For example, you may wish to set out that you want your partner to continue living in the property after you pass away and the terms under which this provision shall apply.

• Any wishes about money. Setting out your wishes regarding money allows you to ensure your partner has enough money to live on. This might include a trust that allows your partner to benefit for a specified period from either or both the capital and income forming part of your estate.

• Specific wishes about possessions. You should include details about who will inherit particular possessions, such as a car, furniture or even sentimental items.

There are many estate planning matters cohabiting couples should discuss; however, ensuring you have properly drafted Wills in place is the first step and most important step.

Need to talk to us?

Members of our Private Client team are on hand to advise on any issues relating to Wills, Probate, Trusts, Powers of Attorney and Deputyship. Please telephone 01892 526344 or email

For further information on all our Private Client services, please click here.

Whilst our offices are closed to the public during the coronavirus pandemic, we are offering a telephone or video link appointment service which gives you one hour of time with a solicitor for £100 + VAT. Please get in touch if you feel this type of appointment would be beneficial.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

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