Call us today 0800 470 0331

Death of an unmarried Partner – what are your rights?

Published on 29 January 2021 | Modified on 14 December 2022

Written by Stacey Bennett

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many couples have unfortunately had their weddings postponed at least once in the course of the last 12 months – and it is looking likely that there will be further postponements as the current lockdown restrictions continue indefinitely. In addition, more and more couples are choosing to simply live together rather than getting married. But have you thought about what protection you might have should the worst happen in the meantime?

Surprisingly, few couples actually know what their legal rights would be should their partner die when they are not married. If you and your partner have made a Will, then the Will can be administered and all parties provided for accordingly. However, it is currently estimated that up to 70% of people in the UK do not currently have a Will in place.

So what happens where an unmarried partner dies without leaving a Will? We address some of the most burning questions below:

What would happen to the family home?

Where a couple jointly own their property, many people assume that it will automatically pass to the surviving person should one of them pass away. However, this is not always the case.

If a property has been purchased and registered as ‘Joint Tenants’ when the property was brought, then the assumption is correct – the survivor will automatically inherit the share of the deceased partner.

However, if the property has been registered as ‘Tenants in Common’ (another form of joint ownership) then things are not so straight forward. Likewise, if the property is in the sole name of one partner. In these instances, the surviving partner would not automatically be entitled to inherit the share of the partner who has died. In fact, they would only be able to do so if a Will has been made gifting it to them.

Where no Will has been made, the intestacy rules would dictate what happened to the deceased partner’s share. Unfortunately, these regulations (as dictated by the Government) do not cater for unmarried partners and the deceased partner’s share in the property would pass to other family members, such as their parents, siblings or perhaps more remote family members.

Would my partner have access to my savings and other bank accounts?

Similarly to the advice given above, if an account is held jointly, any monies contained within it would automatically pass to the surviving account holder.

However, where savings and investments are held in sole accounts such as ISA’s, the surviving partner would have no automatic right to receive it and would only be entitled to do so if there is a Will confirming this.

In the event of there being no Will, any accounts would be dealt with again via the intestacy rules  meaning that the surviving partner could find themselves in great financial hardship (especially where finances in the relationship were unequal.)

Isn’t there the concept of ‘Common Law Spouses’?

Unfortunately not. The idea of the ‘common law spouse’ has no legal standing. Couples who are married are afforded many different rights and privileges in comparison to those who are not. This is most certainly the case where someone dies without having made a Will. In some circumstances it may be a possibility for a surviving unmarried partner to make a claim against the estate, but it must be taken into account that this can be exceptionally time consuming, costly and without any guarantee of success.

So what can we do to protect ourselves?

The easy solution for couples to protect themselves and their assets is to make Wills. The Will can dictate who gets what in the event of your death and you can make sure that each other will be adequately provided for should the worst happen, whilst also making sure that you can provide for other loved ones such as children, step-children, siblings etc.

One important additional thing to note is that an executed Will can become invalid should you get married. However don’t let this put you off making a Will in advance of your nuptials – simply inform your solicitor that you are planning on getting married and they can make sure that appropriate provisions are put in place to ensure the Will remains valid, meaning you have peace of mind before and after getting wed.

How do we get some more advice?

For more information, or to discuss your individual requirements further, contact our New Enquiries Team on 01270 613939 to arrange an appointment or complete our contact form here to speak with one of our friendly expert solicitors.

Related Insights

Sign up to our newsletter

apply area-criminal area-divorce area-employment area-home area-motoring area-personal arrow_downarrow-left-long arrow_leftarrow-right-long-menu arrow-right-long arrow-right asbestos-claimsbenefits-health benefits-incentive £ benefits-nursery benefits-pension blueprintbottom-wave-180 bottom-wave buildingsbusiness-services calendarcertificationcharitychat checklist clockcommercial-propertyconvey_icon_purchase_standardconvey_icon_remortgageconvey_icon_sale_purchase convey_icon_sale conveyancingcriminal-defencecrossdefencedisputesdivorce-family divorce documentsdownloaddrink-drivingeducationemail-altemail-outlineemail employmentevent-calendarfixed-fee-divorcefor-salegravelheartbeathero-wave home-searchhospitalhousehricon_laptop_add icon_purchase_standard icon_quill icon_tick icon-feather-mail icon-user input-error input-upload input-valid job-descriptionlegal-aidlitigationmap-marker map-pinmoneypersonal-injurypersonal-services phone-primary phone play pluspropertyremortgagesearch-primary searchseparationsocial-facebook social_googleplussocial_instagramsocial_linkedin_altsocial-linkedin social_pinterestlogo-twitter-glyph-32social_youtubesoldtenanttick_circle_green tick-white ticktoggle-cross traffic-accidenttreetriangle will-probatewillwrite-a-will