Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples
In England, there is no such thing as a common law spouse, and many do not know or understand the consequences of this in estate planning. Generally, we tend to avoid talking about what will happen to our estate in the event of our death. Living together or being an unmarried couple means you do not have many rights regarding finances and property.
Many assume that they would be treated as “next of kin” if their partner became ill or died, that they would be entitled to make decisions on their behalf if they became incapacitated or inherit a share of their assets if they died. This is not the case. You will need to have Lasting Powers of Attorney documents in place to be able to make decisions such as care option plans and arranging their finances.
Sadly, as an unmarried partner, you may not have the right to make funeral arrangements, access your partner’s bank accounts (unless jointly owned) or benefit from their pensions. To inherit, you will have to make a claim through the court. This is a lengthy, costly and can be a very emotional process. You will need to prove that you have been living together for two or more years or that you were financially supported by your partner. The law surrounding this area is not simple and each case is assessed on its own merits. The law does treat unmarried couples differently and it is important to seek professional advice to avoid this emotional turmoil.