Unexpected legal consequences for cohabiting couples

Contentious probate matters and administrative complexity doesn't just come up between wealthy families and waring beneficiaries, but can arise in the most common and simple situation, one being cohabiting couples and families.

It is no longer the case that the majority of couples, get married, buy property and have children in that order. Modern times mean, that the ‘family unit’ has evolved and marriage and jointly owned property are not necessarily the norm. Unfortunately the law hasn’t quite caught up!

The rules of intestacy as set out in the 1925 Administration of Estate Act provides the legal authority and provisions for dealing with the assets and estate of those who die without a valid Will. The rules currently make no provision for cohabitees who are unmarried or not in civil partnerships, favouring children of the deceased and other family members.

The sudden and tragic loss of a partner could bring about huge amounts of stress, uncertainly and unexpected legal consequences than could ever be anticipated, but could in the majority of the stress and uncertainly be avoided by each partner making sure that they have a valid and well drafted Will in place to protect their loved ones and families.

Without a Will in place a surviving partner could find themselves in the vulnerable position of having no say, or control in dealing with their partner’s estate and ultimately no benefit or rights over their partner assets and property, which were presumed to be available and shared.

Imagine the scenario of the sudden passing or your partner, difficult enough to deal with, without the added pressure of unexpectedly finding out the whole or part of the property that you shared passes to your children or your partner’s children. Their other assets, bank accounts, possessions, investments, all passing to someone other than you and you have no control.

Without the provisions, wishes and protection in place, cohabitees are left with attempting to prove to the Court their interest in property and assets or making a claim via The Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for reasonable provision, which is not straight forward or guaranteed.

Rollits Private Client team are available to help and advise on the best way to protect you and your family and to put in place the correct documentation to reduce the uncertainty and stress during a difficult period.

Posted on: 24/02/2020

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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