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As Cohabitation Rises - Are Unmarried Couples Protected?

The Office For National Statistics has found that there has been an increase in the number of cohabiting couple families. In 2011 the proportion of cohabiting couples (not married or in a civil partnership) was 20.6% which has increased to 24.3% at the 2021 census. What’s more the number of non-dependent children still living with their parents rose by 14.7% between the 2011 and 2021 census’.

A cohabiting couple unaware that their estates are not protected

A change in the dynamic of how we live can mean that problems are created when someone sadly passes away. What many unmarried cohabiting couples fail to realise is that, if one person passes away, the survivor is not entitled to inherit their estate under the rules of intestacy. Therefore, without a valid Will in place, it will mean that the surviving partner could be left without a home and without the support that they once had.

Because of the increase in people choosing to live together and not marry more and more people are now having to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 against the estate as a way of attempting to inherit all or part of it and retain the property in which they live.

For those families or parents where they still have a child living at home, the importance of having a Will to ensure that the child’s home is secure is even more important. This can be difficult if the parents want to treat all of their children the same but one of them is still living at home and therefore has more immediate needs. It is a difficult issue and if it is not given the correct consideration, it can mean that arguments within the family arise after a loved one has passed away.

Another area of estate planning that is often overlooked is Lasting Powers of Attorney. It is common for many to believe that, especially if they are married, they have the right to take care of the financial affairs of their partner should they lose the capacity to do it themselves. This is not correct and a married couple, in the same way as an unmarried couple, will not have any right to manage the affairs of their partner. This can be overcome by them signing and registering a Lasting Power of Attorney. When it comes to lifetime planning, a Lasting Power of Attorney is crucial for both health and welfare decisions and daily financial decisions which are an integral part of life. So, with a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, the sudden loss of capacity won’t become an issue for those appointed to manage the financial affairs and make decisions on behalf of another individual.

Everyone’s circumstances are unique, and it is important to get bespoke advice on your own individual situation, so that your estate planning matches your family circumstances.


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