In an earlier article we explained that there is no such concept of the common law wife in English law. The common law wife simply doesn’t exist; Nor does the common law husband. So what happens if your partner died and you are not married? What inheritance rights do you actually have?
Well, the headline news is that unmarried partners do not enjoy the same inheritance rights as their married counterparts. This is the case even where they have been living with their partner as ‘husband and wife’ for many years and have brought up their family together.
This can result in unforeseen and tragically unfair consequences.
We all know we should make a will, but the fact is that a huge number of us die each year intestate ie without having made a will.
If a couple are married and one of them dies without making a will then the intestacy rules step in to protect the survivor. Under the current intestacy rules (2018) where there are children the husband, wife, or civil partner will keep all the assets (including any property), up to a maximum of £250,000, together with all personal possessions, whatever their value. In addition to this the husband, wife or civil partner will also receive half of the remainder of their spouse’s estate.
However the intestacy rules do nothing to protect unmarried partners. The surviving partner will not inherit anything. Only if they own property as ‘joint tenants’ will they automatically benefit. Instead their estate is likely to pass to any children they have or more distant family members.
This can obviously lead to severe financial hardship for the survivor and family disputes in these situations are extremely common.
So is there anything that can be done if your partner died and you were not married?
Read the full article here.