Wills for unmarried couples

If you own property or other assets and would like to ensure they go to the people you want to benefit, then you should make a will.

For cohabiting couples, what your partner receives in the event of your death depends on how you own your assets and what provision you make in your will. Unless you have a will in place, your assets may not pass to your partner, unless you own any asset as beneficial joint tenants. It is therefore crucial that you understand who owns any assets and you make provision in a will for what you want to happen to the assets you own.

It is important to remember that if either you or your partner dies intestate, the survivor does not have any automatic entitlement under the intestacy rules in the same way a spouse or civil partner would. A will is therefore essential.

Our lawyers

We work with a wide range of clients including high-net worth individuals, senior executives and other professionals, family businesses and trusts, landed estates and business people often with complex assets both in the UK and abroad.  

Working alongside our specialist private wealth and trust colleagues, we can advise on all areas of lifetime planning. We are recognised for providing clear and concise advice, excellent client service and having strong technical ability. Our team has been awarded the Platinum STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) status by the global professional association for practitioners in family inheritance and succession planning. 


What do you need to know

There remains a common myth that people who have lived or been together for a long period of time are treated the same as those who are married or who are in a civil partnership. Unfortunately, this is not true. Legal rights for cohabiting couples are the same whether they have lived together for one year or many years. 

If you have a will then, on your death, your assets (often called your “estate”), will be distributed in accordance with it. However, if you do not have a will or the will you have is found to be invalid, then you die “intestate”. Your assets are distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules. These set out the strict order of who should receive your assets, which is: 

  1. Spouses or civil partners
  2. Children  
  3. Wider family members  

Cohabiting partners are not part of this list meaning, without a will, your partner may not receive any of your assets at all. Any assets you and your partner hold together (joint assets) may pass automatically to your partner on your death, but it depends on the legal structure you hold those assets in.


Frequently Asked Questions

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