What Happens if My Partner Dies and We’re Not Married?
It really depends if they had a Will or not.
If your partner had a valid Will, then their Will decides how their Estate (everything they owned) will be divided. If they didn’t make a Will, you may not have any right to inherit from your partner’s Estate because of inheritance law called the Rules of Intestacy.
Many couples in England and Wales choose not to marry and cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type. Before you end up in this situation, it’s important to know what your rights are.
For initial legal advice call one of our Wills and Trust Solicitors.
Do Unmarried Couples Have the Same Rights as Married Couples?
No they don’t.
The law in England and Wales does not give unmarried couples the same rights as married couples, not matter how long you’ve been together. Although the phrase common law husband and common law wife are often used, it’s just another way to say that you are committed but gives you no legal standing.
Although you don’t have the same legal rights as a married couple, there are steps you can take to make sure your partner is protected when you die. By simply making a Will, you can make sure that your partner can inherit whatever you want to leave them.
If you don’t make a Will, you could leave them in a very worrying situation financially even if that’s not your intention.
What If My Partner Has a Will?
If your partner dies and they have a valid Will, it will outline what they want to happen with their Estate. If you’re named as the Executor, you can carry on with your Executor Duties and get the Grant of Probate if you need one.
If you need help and advice about Probate and the administration of an Estate, our Probate Solicitors can help you.
What If My Partner Dies Without a Will?
If your partner doesn’t have a Will, they are classed as dying intestate and the Rules of Intestacy will apply.
The Rules of Intestacy say that their inheritance goes to their closest living blood relatives in a specific order. If you have children together, they will be recognised as your partner’s next of kin.
An Administrator will need to be appointed to deal with the Estate and for a Grant of Representation, also known as a Grant of Letters of Administration. The Administrator is usually a close friend or relative. You may not be allowed to apply to become an Administrator, particularly if your partner has blood relatives who can make this application. This is because you are not related by marriage or blood to your partner.
This can be very difficult to take, at an already very emotional time.
Does This Mean that I Can’t Inherit Anything?
No it doesn’t. Even if your partner dies intestate, it doesn’t mean that you won’t have a claim on their Estate.
If you had joint bank accounts, you will automatically get any money in those accounts and this will not form part of the Estate.
If you owned a property as Joint Tenants, your partner’s share will pass to you under the rights of survivorship. If you owned the property together as Tenants in Common, your partner’s share will be shared out according to the Rules of Intestacy. Even if you don’t jointly own the property, you could still have a claim for part of the property.
Alternatively, you should get legal advice about whether you can make an Inheritance Act Claim. This is a claim for financial support and is often made by people who’ve lost a partner who didn’t make a Will.
If you lost your partner and you’re not sure where you stand legally, contact one of our experienced Wills and Trusts Solicitors who are happy to help you.
Simpson Millar Solicitors are a national law firm with over 500 staff and offices in Bristol, Cardiff, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester.