New cohabitee rights proposed

Posted: 5th January 2012

The Government has announced plans to introduce legislation to give legal rights of inheritance to long-term cohabitees. There are currently more than two million couples living together who are not married or in civil partnerships. Under current law, in the event of the death of either partner, the surviving partner has no rights over the estate of the deceased unless there is a will.

Since a majority of adults still have not made wills, there are numerous cases in which the death of a partner leads to a battle for their assets between their surviving partner and their relatives, who will inherit under the laws of intestacy. Often the surviving partner must make a claim for support under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
modern house
The current proposals are that where a couple has cohabited for five years (two where there are children), the survivor will acquire legal rights over the estate of the deceased.
Reforms to the present law of intestacy are also suggested – in particular the rule that in larger estates a spouse inherits a part of the estate in the form of a ‘life interest’ (the right to use of the assets for life: upon death, the assets pass on to the person next in line).
The new proposal is that in such cases, the spouse will get half of the estate and the children or their heirs the other half. If the couple did not have children, the spouse will inherit the entire estate.
Making a will is the only way to ensure that your estate is administered efficiently and your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Contact us for advice.