Are Wills Important for Same Sex Couples?

25 May 2018

Research has suggested that most same sex couples in the UK are living together without being in a Civil Partnership or marriage (this is known as co-habiting). This means that a substantial number of same sex couples currently have very little, if any, legal recognition of their relationship.

If your relationship is not legally recognised in the form of either marriage or a Civil Partnership, then it’s important to make a Will if you want to ensure that your partner is entitled to inherit from your Estate in the event of your death.

Why Do So Many Same Sex Couples Cohabit?

In 2017, the Office for National Statistics (ONS)* recorded the numbers of same sex couples in the following three categories:

  • Same sex married couples - 34,000 
  • Civil Partnership couples - 55,000 
  • Same sex cohabiting couples - 101,000

As you can see, the number of same sex couples cohabiting far outweighs those either married or in a civil partnership.

This may be because, in the grand scheme of things, legal recognition for same sex relationships is still relatively new. Civil partnerships were introduced in England and Wales in 2005 to provide same sex couples with the ability to obtain legal recognition for their relationship when they were unable to get married. In 2014, same sex marriage was then made legal in England and Wales. 

This means that although same sex couples now have two options to formalise their relationship, before 2005 they did not have any options. As such, many continue to cohabit, meaning that cohabitation makes up the largest proportion of same sex family types by a significant margin.

Inheritance Laws for Cohabiting Couples

There’s a common misconception that a couple living together in the England & Wales will have their relationship recognised and protected by the law (often erroneously referred to as a ‘common law marriage’). Sadly this is not the case and many do not find this out until it’s too late. 

Research recently carried out by Direct Line Life Insurance found that over a third of couples who were living together (co-habiting) didn’t know what their rights were if their partner were to die. Many thought that they would automatically inherit their partner’s share of the house, but this is not always the case.

If you die without a Will in place, then everything you own will be dealt with in line with the law. Inheritance laws, called the Rules of Intestacy, determine who automatically inherits what from you, regardless of whether this is or isn’t what you would have wanted.

The Rules of Intestacy place your relatives in order of priority and your Estate would be distributed amongst them accordingly. If you are cohabiting with your partner but you are not married or in a Civil Partnership then your partner will not be acknowledged under these rules, regardless of how long you’ve been together. This could mean that your partner is left with nothing.

Provide for Your Partner by Making a Will

The best way to ensure that your partner is provided for after you’ve gone is to make a Will. In your Will, you can set out exactly how you want your Estate to be distributed amongst your loved ones. You can either name specific items or state specific sums of money that you would like to be passed to each Beneficiary or you can leave various percentages of your overall Estate. Or you can even combine the two.

If you choose to have your Will drafted by Co-op Legal Services then our Will Writers can discuss your options, make arrangements for every eventuality and provide you with a robust Will that’s tailored to your needs.

* Source: The Office for National Statistics (ONS).

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