It is a common misconception that when we die our assets automatically go to our partner, but this is not always the case.  If one cohabiting partner of an unmarried couple dies and hasn’t left a detailed Will, the surviving partner won’t inherit any of their estate, including any part of a shared home owned by their deceased partner.

This highlights an issue with the UK’s unmarried, cohabiting couples who may wrongly assume that living together entitles them to ownership of shared property in the event of one person dying.

Married couples: If one of you dies without leaving a Will

  • If you are married or in a civil partnership and have no children, everything goes to your partner (even if there is no romantic relationship)
  • If you do have children, under the current intestacy rules, your partner and children will inherit all your personal possessions, the first £250,000 of your estate and half of the remaining estate. The balance is then divided up with half going to your partner and half to be shared between the children

Unmarried couples: If one of you dies without leaving a Will

If you live with your partner but are not married or in a civil partnership, then your partner is not legally entitled to any of your assets when you die.  Failing to write a will that includes your partner can leave your partner homeless and penniless.

  • If you have children, your estate is divided equally between them
  • If you have no children, your estate goes to parents, siblings, half-siblings, grandparents, and then ever-more distant relatives
  • If you have no surviving relatives the entire estate goes to the Government

Statistics show cohabitation is on the rise, and while the law doesn’t currently align with these changes, there are some simple steps unmarried couples should take to make sure they, and their families and assets, are protected.

Arranging a cohabitation agreement 

A cohabitation agreement is a useful way to protect both you and your partner, plus any other family members or children if one of you dies.  As well as making sure you have a share of each others’ assets, this cohabitation agreement will ensure access to each other’s state pension and provide you with next of kin rights in a medical emergency.  It will also help with dividing up bills and other outgoings while you live together.

Before going ahead with a cohabitation agreement, you will need to discuss how you would like your assets (savings, pensions, investments, and of course your property) to be divided up should one of you die.  You will then need to inform your solicitor of the following information:

  • What the total value of your assets are
  • Whether or not you are a homeowner or renting
  • What you both earn
  • How many children you have

Once you have provided the information, your solicitor can draft the agreement.

Making a Will

Drawing up a Will can be complicated, but dying without leaving one (called “Intestacy” or “Dying Intestate”) is far less straightforward than making one in the first place.  Dying Intestate places more stress and demands on your surviving family at an already difficult time.  We know that making a Will is extremely important if you are married, but if you are cohabiting, have children, and/or hold property or savings, it’s even more important to make a Will to be sure you have a say in how they are looked after when you die.

Contact Backhouse Solicitors for Help

If you haven’t yet made a Will or thought about how to plan for your family’s future, then now is the time to talk to Backhouse Solicitors.  Contact us today to book a free initial consultation with one of our expert solicitors and take the first step to peace of mind for  your family

The Backhouse Solicitors Team

Tel: 01245 893400


Visit: 17 Duke Street, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1JU

Or send us a message through our contact page.