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It is vital unmarried couples make a Will and update it regularly.
Unfortunately, unmarried couples are not recognised by the law. There is no such thing as ‘a common law husband or wife’ and couples who live together do not have the same rights as married couples or those in a civil partnership. This means that if you are in a long term relationship and not married (or civil partners), you have to plan your financial affairs carefully.
If you are an unmarried couple and you die without making a Will, you run the risk of your partner receiving nothing from your estate. The Rules of Intestacy will apply which can be severe on a surviving partner. The only assets your partner would be entitled to would be those held jointly. If your estate passes under Intestacy your assets could potentially pass to an estranged spouse (if you have not updated your Will), your children and if there are no children, close relatives. If there are no close relatives, your estate would pass to the Crown. This can be unfair on your long term partner and leave them in a difficult position at a time of bereavement.
In a recent case, a Testator failed to update his Will or divorce his former partner, resulting in his share of his property (owned as tenants in common with his new long term partner) passing to his estranged wife. In the absence of an up-to-date Will, his surviving partner was left no choice other than to apply to the Court to ensure she could stay in her home and have financial security in the future. Although the Judge ruled in her favour, the process was traumatic and an up-to-date Will would have prevented a lot of stress and heartache at a difficult time. This case highlights the importance for unmarried couples to update their Wills.
Making a Will is not only important for unmarried couples, but for any individual who wishes to ensure that their property passes to the people that they want to benefit from their estates, on their death.
A Will does not only deal with the disposal of assets but also can be used to indicate whom a person wishes to be appointed as guardians of their children and can also set out any specific funeral wishes.
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