Inheritance Claims and Cohabiting Couples

Will my partner receive any inheritance from me if I die first and we are not married?

Yes, if you wish your partner to do so and you state so in a valid Will.

And, yes, maybe even if you don’t.

Making a Will to provide financially for your family or to ensure that your wishes are carried out upon your death is important.  If you do not leave a Will, the rules of intestacy will determine how your assets are distributed.  This may mean that an unmarried partner who survives you will not benefit from your estate.  Making provision for your partner by Will is therefore essential if you wish to control and define what your partner receives.

It is also important to bear in mind that, even if you do leave a Will, your surviving partner may be able to bring a claim through the courts against your estate if he/she has not been reasonably provided for financially in your Will.  Your partner would need to satisfy the court that you were both living in the same household in a husband/wife-type relationship for the whole period of not less than two years immediately before your death.  Statistics show that these claims are increasing in the UK, as it appears that over 6 million people are cohabiting while only one-third of the population has a Will.

In recent cases, the court has shown willingness to broaden the definitions applied in considering whether a claim can proceed in order to reflect, as referred in the case of Re Watson in 1999, the ‘multifarious nature of marital relationships’.  In the case of Kaur v Dhaliwal & another which came before the court on appeal recently, the court established that a claim may arise by the surviving partner if he/she can establish that the relationship had endured over the two-year period despite what might appear to be breaks in the physical cohabitation arrangements.  In this case, the deceased had spent time away from the surviving partner while travelling to India with his son (in order to repair his relationship with his wider family).  The court likened this arrangement to working away from home, which would not be seen to create a break or diminish the relationship which only restarts when that person returns.

Accordingly, we recommend that you consider:-

  • What will happen if you pre-decease your partner without leaving a Will?
  • Would your partner or any other family member/interested third party be able to successfully challenge the arrangements which you have in place?
  • Does your present arrangement accord with your wishes, and are those arrangements legally effective?  If not, we recommend taking advice and action to establish your position, and implement any steps arising therefrom, to meet your requirements.

If you would like further information and advice, please contact us at: enquiries@blasermills.co.uk

Anna Ferro
Senior Associate Solicitor
alf@blasermills.co.uk
01494 478 612