Wills and the Rights of a Surviving Partner
Obviously nobody wants to consider the possibility of themselves or their partner dying but in the unlikely event of it happening, it is best to be prepared. If you are in a cohabiting relationship and are living as ‘common law’ husband and wife then you may think that your rights are covered, but they’re not. In legal terms there is no such things as common law marriage and the surviving partner has no claim to the estate, however long you may have been living together.
Your RightsYou may know that your partner wanted their estate to pass on to you and so may your friends and family but unless it is stated in a legal document then it counts for nothing. If your partner passes away then their assets are automatically left to their next of kin. Even if you don’t have any children this applies and could be a brother, sister or even a cousin or nephew. As callous as it may sound, unless you are married then legally, you don’t exist in the proceedings.
Making a WillIf you want to make sure that your partner is first in line to receive your home, investments or any other assets you may have when you dies, then you need to make a will. The will is a legally binding contract and sets out exactly who gets what and how much in the event of your death. It needs to be signed, dated and have witnesses. There are kits you can buy or download but for peace of mind, and because it is especially important for cohabiting couples, it is a good idea to get a lawyer to oversee it.
What Should it CoverYour will needs to cover every asset that you own and set out clearly who will receive it. This includes property, investments, antiques and household items, cars and pensions. If you have a work related pension then your partner will not automatically receive it if you die as they are not considered as a spouse. Consult your accountant and lawyer to make sure you have mentioned everything that you own and are unambiguous about your intentions.
Inheritance TaxThis is a sticky situation. If you are not married to your partner and inherit property from them then you will be hit for 40% assets above the £263,000 threshold. If you were married then you would not be liable for inheritance tax on your spouse’s estate. There are ways to avoid paying inheritance tax but you need to plan it well before one of you passes away and seek legal advice to navigate the complicated laws surrounding it.
Making a will is never a fun thing to consider but it is vital if you want to know that your partner will be secure and have rights to your estate, whatever happens. There is not much room for negotiation in the law and the knowledge that your partner would have wanted you to have everything will not count for anything unless there is a will stating so. If there are children and extended members of the family it can be even more tricky and that is why clarifying everything in a legally binding document is essential for your peace of mind and your future.