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Call for LGBTQ+ community to understand cohabitation rights

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

Same-sex cohabitation is on the rise but a survey reveals a lack of knowledge about cohabitees’ financial rights.

Nearly one in five (17 per cent) members of the LGBTQ+ community incorrectly think that owning a house with an unmarried partner means that if they were to die, their partner will inherit their estate, according to a survey by will-writing service Farewill.

The study also found that a third (33 per cent) of the LGBTQ+ community would assume that if they had lived with their partner for five years or more and one of them were to pass away, the other would inherit the deceased person’s estate or assume executor status. However, in reality, this would not be the case.

A similar proportion (30 per cent) of the LGBTQ+ community believe that couples who have been together for more than five years should have the same legal rights as a married couple.

The study was carried out after figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that the
number of same-sex couples recorded as living together in the UK has risen by more than 50 per cent since 2015.

Farewill found that nearly a fifth (17 per cent) of the LGBTQ+ community have discussed informal plans for their estate to go to their partner in the event of their death, but had not formalised this within a will.

The will-writing service is keen to educate the LGBTQ+ community about the differences between cohabiting and marriage when it comes to what happens when one partner dies.

A key thing to understand is that if one cohabiting partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner won’t automatically inherit anything. This includes any share of a property, unless the couple jointly own the property as “joint tenants” (as opposed to “tenants in common”). In contrast, a married partner would inherit all or some of the estate.

Cohabiting partners cannot access their partner’s bank account if they die, unless they’ve been named specifically as a beneficiary in their will. Married couples, meanwhile, may be allowed to withdraw the balance.

Dan Garrett, CEO of Farewill, said: “We need to recognise the changing face of modern British families and how this impacts the estate planning process. Unfortunately, the legal rights for cohabiting couples, those in civil partnerships and unmarried parents of children are not the same as they are for married couples, despite many believing that they are the same.

“There needs to be greater education around how this can affect and potentially break family relationships after a death in the family.”