Wills and cohabitation

Cohabiting couples are not afforded the same rights as married couples. Often cohabiting couples either put off making a will or make a common assumption under the “myth of the common law marriage” that their share will pass to their partner. This is absolutely not what would happen if you did not make a will as there is no such thing as a common law spouse. 

What your partner would receive in the event of your death depends on how you own your property and what provision you make in your will, if you have one. 

In the case of couples owning their property as beneficial joint tenants, it will automatically pass to the survivor upon the other party’s death, regardless of the deceased’s will. 

If cohabiting couples own their property as tenants in common, then the deceased’s share in the property will pass under the deceased party’s will or under the intestacy rules. The intestacy rules do not make any provision for an unmarried partner. In this case the deceased’s share of the property will pass as part of their estate to their next of kin (usually a parent, sibling or child) and the surviving partner may be forced to sell the property to realise the estate’s share. 

Simple lack of awareness, forethought or delaying planning can often result in additional trauma, expense and disputes and a loved one having to sell the family home. 

It's important to seek advice and have open conversations from the outset. Our lawyers have experience in providing advice for unmarried couples. Speak to you team to find out how we can help you. 

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