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Two million cohabiting couples at risk of leaving finances in legal limbo

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

More than two million cohabiting couples will inherit nothing if their partner dies, figures show.

Statistics released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the number of people living as part of a cohabiting couple has risen by almost 50% to 2.05 million.

Recent changes to intestacy law, which strengthened the position of those in marriages or civil partnerships, left the position of cohabiting couples unchanged.

This means where couples are not married and one of them dies without a will their surviving partner could be left with nothing, at a time when they are also dealing with the emotional stress of the death of a loved one.

The ONS revealed the number of cohabiting couples rose by 46% between 2002 and 2014, from 1,407,862 to 2,055,542.

Gary Rycroft, solicitor and member of the Law Society’s Wills and Equity Committee, said cohabiting couples need to make sure they have a professionally drafted will.

“It is vitally important couples that are not married or in a civil partnership have a will drawn up by a professional solicitor,” he said.

“Under intestacy rules, if no will is in place assets pass automatically to the closest blood relatives who are often children of the deceased or parents or siblings.

“This means if you die your surviving partner could be left in an emotional and financial mess, with no access to vital funds to help them cope.

“Dying without a will not only means your final wishes could go unmet, but could leave problems for your loved ones to sort out. Don’t make this mess your legacy.”

Under the intestacy rules, only partners who are married or in a civil partnership can inherit. If you are not in this position your children will be entitled to your entire estate – leaving your surviving partner with nothing.

Rycroft said consumers need to be able to distinguish between those who are unregulated, uninsured and untrained, and solicitors who offer a quality service.

“Using a regulated solicitor who is a member of the Law Society is the only way to give you future financial security,” he said.