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  • Published:
    11 March
  • Area of Law:
    Family Wealth Preservation & Planning, Financial Matters, Wills

Law Society issues warning to unmarried couples without up to date Wills

The Law Society has warned that unmarried couples should update their wills to ensure that if they die their partner isn't left high and dry.

This warning follows a recently reported case of a bereaved woman whose long-term partner had not updated his will, resulting in his share of the couple’s house going to his estranged wife. Whilst the judge ruled in the woman’s favour, she found the process traumatic.

With more unmarried couples than ever choosing to live together and, in many cases, sharing that home with their children from previous relationships, it is extremely important for people in this situation to seek expert legal advice regarding co-ownership of the property and wills. 

This requires unmarried couples to have open and honest discussions about how the property is to be owned, which should take place well before completion of the house purchase, and to record their agreement in writing. They will also need to decide what should happen to their respective shares in the property in the event of one of them dying and whether the survivor should be permitted to continue living there.

The deceased in the reported case may well have assumed, as do many, that living together as ‘common law’ man and wife protects the survivor, but this is a myth and in this case, as he hadn't divorced, his share ended up with his estranged wife, which is surely what he would not have wanted. 

Mere separation does not revoke your will or alter spousal provision under the intestacy rules. Accordingly, it is standard advice for separating couples to make new wills, just in case the worst should happen before the decree absolute is granted.

In the absence of an up to date will or enforceable legal agreement, the bereaved woman’s only option was to bring a claim against her deceased partner’s estate to avoid losing her home, and although the judgement went her way, it must have been a stressful and costly experience. 

Putting a will in place doesn't have to be difficult or time-consuming, and with the expertise of a qualified solicitor, complex issues such as balancing financial provision for partners and children can be easily navigated to ensure that your estate is left to who you wish to inherit it on your death.

If you need any more information please contact Sarah Nash.

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