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Cohabitees still unclear on their rights

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More than a third of cohabiting couples don’t know what their legal rights would be if their partner died, finds research from Direct Line Life Insurance.

One in ten (11%) cohabiting Brits, believe that if they own a home together, they would automatically inherit their partner’s share of the property on death. However, the law states that surviving partners may only inherit the shared property if their partner has said so in a will. If they haven’t made a will, their share of the property passes to their next of kin (children, parents, brothers and sisters).

Only around a quarter of all co-habiting partners have a will, compared to half of married couples. This means the surviving partner may have to sell the family home to pay off family members. However, most are aware that they wouldn’t have immediate access to their partner’s money and possessions – only around one in twenty believe this.

Less than a third of couples have life insurance, which could mitigate the problems for their surviving partner (providing they were the dedicated beneficiary).

Also, cohabiting Brits may find that it’s their partner’s family, rather than them making life-or-death decisions about their health, property or financial affairs. Just 6% of Brits have a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), with a nominated person to help them make decisions or to make decisions on their behalf in the event they are unable to do so.

New legislation going through the House of Commons may help with these issues, allowing male/female couples to have a civil partnership.

However, in the meantime, Jane Morgan, business manager of Direct Line Life Insurance, said couples need to protect themselves: “As our society changes, marriage is further down the agenda for many couples. It is very common for partners to live together for extended periods of time before getting married, if they marry at all.

“However, the law is still somewhat behind the times in regards to cohabiting partners and worryingly, millions of Brits are under the false impression that they have the same legal and financial security as married couples.”

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