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Writing a will when not married

Laws of intestacy are a set of rules about who inherits what you own if you die without a will. Whether or not you are married, these laws will have very different effects.

If you are married or in a civil partnership, your partner isn’t exactly legally entitled to anything if you die. On the other hand, if you aren’t married or in a civil partnership, your partner is entitled to:

  • £250,000 of what you own; and
  • 50% of what you own above that figure if you have children.

If you’re not married or in a civil partnership, it doesn’t matter before the court how long you’ve been together, how long you’ve lived together, and how many kids you’ve had together.

No will means no automatic rights 

There is no way to ensure that your partner gets anything when you die if you haven’t made it official by writing a will. Your partner will be left with no automatic legal rights to inherit.

According to a solicitor, James Buchan, you have to have a will if you are unmarried (compared to when you are married or in a civil partnership) if you want to protect your partner.

The rules of intestacy will kick in when someone dies without a will which means that your surviving partner can lose not just a home, a source of income, but legal rights and legal say over who gets what and when. During a time of loss and grief, this is not very ideal.

If I don’t have a will, who will inherit from me?

Dying “intestate” is when you die without a will at the time of death or what is called “rules of intestacy”. These rules usually do not accommodate modern family situations. Strict inheritance laws will apply during instances like this. It usually dictates how everything you own (estate) should and will be distributed.

Consider writing up a cohabitation agreement

For your partner to have a legal entitlement to jointly-funded assets, cohabitation agreements will ensure that. A cohabitation agreement sets out exactly what assets each partner is bringing to the relationship and how they should be divided in the event of the relationship breaking down such as death. This includes:

  • properties;
  • contents;
  • personal belongings;
  • savings; and
  • mortgage deposit and repayments (at times).

Taking note of mortgage deposit and repayments can be especially important if the property by a partner but the other has helped in paying for the mortgage. Unless stated and set out in the agreement, the other partner has no legal claim to the property if they decide to split up.

As much as it helps sort things out when you die, a cohabitation agreement can also:

  • be used to clarify areas of potential conflicts—e.g. bills responsibility, credit card and/or bank account-related concerns;
  • cover daily matters such as how your household is run; and
  • set out how you intend to support any children you might have together.