"Do I need to make a will?"
The short answer is "Yes!" 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 would receive in the event of your death depends on how you own your assets and what provision you make in your will.
It is crucial that you understand how your assets are owned and who will receive them on your death.
What will happen to our property?
If you and your partner own your home as ‘joint tenants’, your share in the property will automatically pass to your partner on your death, regardless of any other instructions you put in a will.
However, if the property is owned as ‘tenants in common’ your share will pass under your will or under the intestacy rules if you do not have a valid will.
For couples living together, it is crucial that you have a valid will if you hold your assets as tenants in common.
If you did not have a will and the intestacy rules apply, your share of the asset would pass as part of your estate to your next of kin (usually a child, parent or sibling). Your partner may be forced to sell the asset to realise the estate’s share.
What if I die without a valid will?
Unless you have a will in place, your assets may not pass to your partner. The only assets which will pass to your partner are those you hold together as joint tenants. . This can include bank accounts and investments as well as a house
When someone dies without having made a valid will, the intestacy rules apply. The rules are different depending on whether there is a surviving spouse or civil partner.
Crucially, if you are living with your partner but are not married or not in a civil partnership with them, and your partner dies intestate, you have no automatic entitlement to their estate under the intestacy rules.
Can I challenge the intestacy rules?
If you and your partner lived together, and they die intestate, you may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependant) Act 1975 for “reasonable financial provision” from their estate. However, the burden would be on you to make the case for reasonable financial provision, which is likely to be less generous than the financial provision that would be made for a surviving spouse.
There are also different rule affecting inheritance tax (IHT) for cohabiting partners.
Expert legal advice
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