I’m Not Married to My Partner – Should I Make a Will?
23 March 2018
If you die without a valid Will in place, the law decides who inherits from you. Inheritance laws in England and Wales do not currently make allowances for unmarried partners. If you would like your partner to inherit from you after you die and you’re not married, then it’s essential that you make a Will stating your wishes.
Who Would Inherit from Me if I Don’t have a Will?
If you die without a legally valid Will in place, this is known as dying “intestate”. There are strict inheritance laws that apply in these circumstances, which dictate how your Estate (everything you own) should be distributed. These laws are called the Rules of Intestacy.
The Rules of Intestacy often do not accommodate modern family situations. Under these rules married or civil partners are given a high priority but unmarried partners are not recognised at all, even if the couple has lived together for a number of years. This means that if you die without a Will in place and you’re not married, then your partner may not be legally entitled to inherit anything from you.
What about Our Home?
If you own your own home, then what will happen to this depends on the way in which it is owned. If the property is owned in your sole name, then the whole of this will be passed on to whoever is entitled to inherit from you, under the Rules of Intestacy. This will apply even if your partner still lives in the property, meaning that your partner may find themselves in a situation where they need to find alternative accommodation.
If you own the property jointly with your partner as Joint Tenants, then this means that each of you owns the property as a whole, with neither person having an identifiable share. In these circumstances, if one owner dies then the whole property will transfer to the surviving co-owner.
If you own the property jointly with your partner as Tenants in Common, then each of you will own a specific share of the property. This is often a 50/50 split, but it can be different depending on whether one person contributed more to the deposit or pays more towards the mortgage. In these circumstances, if one of you dies then your share in the property will not automatically transfer to the surviving co-owner. Instead, this share will be recognised as part of your overall Estate and will be passed on in line with the Rules of Intestacy.
Make a Will
The only way to ensure that your partner inherits from you in the way that you want is to make a Will that is legally valid. In your Will you can name your partner as a Beneficiary, setting out exactly what you would like them to inherit. You can name specific items, a specific sum of money, a percentage of the value of your Estate, or you could choose to leave the entirety of your Estate to your partner.
What if I Get Married after I Make My Will?
Any Will that you made before the wedding could become void, unless the Will has been made in anticipation of getting married to that specific partner. It’s always important to check whether your Will has been revoked by the marriage, and to make a new one if it has.
Of course, once you are married to your partner, they will be recognised under the Rules of Intestacy. However, your Estate could still be distributed in a way that you don’t want it to be particularly if you have, or are planning to have, children or grandchildren, so it’s still very important to make a new Will after you get married.