This can sometimes create problems for partners and close family members who don’t inherit as much as they expect or believe they deserve.
Cohabiting couples are particularly at risk because if one dies without having made a will, the other has no automatic right to inherit the estate. This applies even if the couple have lived together for most of their lives.
The Law Commission has put forward proposals to make the system fairer for all couples, particularly those who are not married.
The Commission’s draft Inheritance (Cohabitants) Bill would give unmarried couples who have lived together for five years the right to inherit each other’s estate under the intestacy rules.
This entitlement would apply after only two years if the couple have a child
together who is living with them when one of the partners dies.
The Commission’s draft Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Bill puts forward other
improvements to the intestacy rules.
The reforms include ensuring that where a couple are married or in a civil partnership, assets pass on to the surviving spouse in all cases where there are no children or other descendants. The Bill would also simplify the sharing of assets where the deceased is survived by a spouse and children or other descendants.
The proposals would provide better protection for couples but it is by no means certain that they will come into effect. Even if they do, people would still be wise to make a will and keep it up to date.
Drawing up a will is the only way to ensure that your estate is passed on according to your wishes.
Please contact us if you would like more information about wills and probate.