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Could 30% increase in cohabiting couples lead to an increase in inheritance claims?

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The latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics reveal that the number of opposite sex cohabiting couple families has increased significantly, from 2.2 million in 2003 to 2.9 million in 2013.

In 2013, there were 18.2 million families in the UK. Of these, 12.3 million consisted of a married couple with or without children.

In 2010 the Office of National Statistics projected that the number of cohabiting couple families would increase to 3.3 million by 2033 however the latest figures reveal that this figure may be reached much sooner than anticipated.

It would appear that more couples are choosing to cohabit rather than marry. But there is often a misconception that cohabiting couples have the same legal rights as married couples, when it comes to the inheritance of their estates. They do not, and if those couples do not make Wills, there is no automatic right to any of their partners’ estate.

If the partner’s family do not agree to let them have something, the surviving partner has no choice but to issue a claim for financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. 

I am a solicitor specialising in inheritance disputes, and am a member of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists, and deal with cases like this on a day to day basis. I too have seen an increase in the number of cases, and enquiries, over the past few years. It unfortunately no longer surprises me how often the family of the deceased turn on the partner of the deceased, despite having had a good relationship for many years.

If you think you may have a claim against your late partner’s estate, it is important that you seek specialist legal advice as early as possible.  The time limit for bringing these types of claim is very short, and you could miss out on your claim if you wait too long.

By Heather Korwin-Szymanowska, Associate solicitor, Will, trust and estate dispute team