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Could the rise in number of unmarried couples be linked to increased Will disputes?

The Office of National Statistics has reported that there has been a 33% rise in the number of unmarried couples since 2005.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, during this time there has also been a rise in the problems which result when an unmarried partner dies without a Will. 

The number of unmarried couples living as a family has almost tripled in the last decade, making it the fastest growing family type. Under the rules of intestacy only married couples, civil partners and some family relatives can inherit assets if someone dies without a Will. A couple living together as cohabitees have no legal rights to any of their partner’s assets should they die intestate, regardless of how long they have been together.

Currently, the Cohabitation Rights Bill is passing through Parliament which will better protect the rights of people who have lived together but are unmarried. However, it is unlikely to be effective until next year at the earliest. The Bill will provide certain protection for people who live together as a couple or have lived together as a couple in the past.  This will include provisions around the property of a deceased person who is survived by a cohabitant.

Tom Curran, Chief Executive of estate administration specialist Kings Court Trust, said; “Until the Cohabitation Rights Bill is passed through Parliament, cohabitees have no legal rights unless there is a valid Will in place.  An ignorance of the law could result in some devastating consequences for individuals who assume that their assets will automatically be passed to their partner.

It is important that people understand the benefits of planning ahead, regardless of our age or health. By ensuring that your Will is clearly and professionally written, your estate can be dealt with as smoothly as possible, reducing the likelihood of loved ones being unintentionally excluded when it comes to their inheritance”.