Unmarried partners don’t inherit anything when their partner dies in the UK, so it’s really important to have a will in place to set out your wishes. This can cover everything from money in the bank, to pensions, to the property you share.
There are around six million unmarried couples who are cohabiting in the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), that figure has quadrupled in just 15 years.
However, despite the clear rise in people deciding that marriage isn’t for them, the law in the UK still fails to provide any automatic provision in the event of one partner’s death.
Here, we’ll look at what happens to your assets if you don’t make a will.
What happens if my partner dies and we aren't married?
If your partner is a parent and dies without a will, their estate will be shared equally between their children, not including any step-children. If any of their children has already died, grandchildren or great-children can inherit their parent’s share.
For example: Sam was unmarried and had two children, Harry and Nina. When Sam died without a will, their estate was worth £500,000. Harry inherited £250,000 but, because Nina had already died, her £250,000 share was passed down to her only child.
Note: If Nina didn’t have children or grandchildren of her own, her share would also have been inherited by Harry.
If your partner doesn’t have any children and dies without a will, their estate would be inherited by their close relatives in the following order of priority:
Brothers and sisters
Half brothers and half sisters
Aunts and uncles
Children of aunts and uncles (cousins)
The laws that set out who inherits when someone dies without a will are known as the rules of intestacy.
What happens to my house if my partner dies?
If you live with your partner but they own the house, you could be left in very difficult circumstances if they were to die unexpectedly.
Under the rules of intestacy, you wouldn’t stand to inherit their property or any of their assets. So, depending on your relationship with the people who inherit the house and what they choose to do with it, you may end up needing to move out.
By taking 15 minutes to write your wills today, your partner could leave you the house as part of their estate – or vice versa. This could help to save a huge amount of financial strain in the future.
What happens to my mortgage if my partner dies?
If you and your partner have a joint mortgage, you would likely have to take on the property as a sole owner if they die first. This means that you’d be responsible for paying the mortgage, and you may even need to take out a new mortgage to make sure you can keep up with the payments.
Making a will allows unmarried partners to protect one another from situations like this. By leaving money and savings to your partner, you could give them the extra support they need to continue paying the mortgage.
What legal rights to unmarried, common law or cohabiting partners have?
Unmarried and cohabiting partners have the legal right to claim against their partner’s estate if they’ve been cohabiting for more than two years. However, they aren’t automatically entitled to any of their partner’s property, financial assets, or belongings unless they’re jointly owned.
By making a will, you can help each other avoid the cost, time and stress that comes with claiming against an estate.
How much does it cost to claim against someone's estate?
It costs around £1,000 to claim against someone’s estate and make a deed of variation. However, this is only possible if everyone who inherits the estate under the rules of intestacy agrees that the unmarried partner should also inherit.
If children under 18 are set to receive part of the estate, then any rearrangement of the estate requires court approval. If there are disagreements, lawyers will be required on both sides, which only adds to the cost and stress for everyone involved.
All of this can be avoided by writing a will online for just £90.
The key benefits of a will for unmarried couples
Writing a will allows unmarried, common law and cohabiting partners to ensure that the surviving partner is provided for in the event of their death. This includes things like:
Leaving your estate to your partner so that they’re financial secure – your estate can include things like property, bank accounts, savings and pensions
Naming your partner as the legal guardian of your children if they don’t already have parental responsibility
Writing funeral wishes so that your partner knows what you would have wanted
Leaving specific gifts or messages to your partner that could help them to grieve when you’re gone
How to write your wills at home in 15 minutes
Our award-winning will writing service allows you and your partner to write your wills online in as little as 15 minutes.
Here’s how it works:
Follow our simple steps to fill out your wishes
Pay and submit your will to be checked by our specialists
Wait for an email from our specialists – we’ll let you know if there’s anything that needs clarifying before we can approve your will
Print and sign your will alongside two witnesses to make it legally binding – or we can send it to you in the post if you don’t have a printer
If the house you live in is solely owned by your partner, you would have no legal right to inherit it or continue living there in the event of their death.
By making a will, your partner can leave their house and financial assets to you as part of their residuary estate – and vice versa.
A will also allows you to appoint each other as legal guardians if you have children from previous relationships.
You can write your will online with Farewill in as little as 15 minutes, potentially saving each other from a huge amount of financial and emotional strain.
What is a codicil to a will?