Unmarried couples have not been recognised in the sweeping changes to Wills and Intestacy laws which were introduced on October 1st 2014.
The Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014 has made a long list of changes to what happens to assets when someone dies without making a Will. It had been hoped that unmarried couples who had been living together for at least five years or who had children together would receive an element of protection, however this is not the case.
The only way for unmarried couples to protect their assets is to make a Will setting out their wishes, get married or enter into a civil partnership.
Rob Gore, a partner and head of the Wills and Probate department at Stephensons Solicitors LLP, said: “This month, the rules have changed on how assets are distributed without a Will – but the changes will only mainly affect married or civil partners, their children as well as adopted children.
“Unfortunately, those in ‘common-law’ relationships have not been afforded any greater protection and we would urge people in this situation to make a Will to ensure their wishes are carried out. Without one, their loved ones could face legal battles after their death to ensure they’re provided for.”
The changes to the intestacy rules only affect those with assets over £250,000. If someone has less than £250,000 there are no changes. But rising house prices could mean many people could fall into the higher bracket.
The biggest change concerns those who are married or in a civil partnership. For couples with no children, the surviving spouse will receive all assets. There is now no provision for parents or distant relatives.
If there are children, the surviving partner will receive the first £250,000 and half of the remainder above that amount. The other half will go to the children when they reach age 18.
The changes also acknowledge children whose parents have both died. If they are subsequently adopted, there is no risk of the child losing their inheritance.
Finally, there are changes to the definition of personal property (also known as Chattels). Now, this will be defined as anything not monetary, business assets or held as an investment.
Contact Stephensons to make a Will on 01616 966 229. The firm also a dedicated inheritance disputes team which assists people to make an inheritance claim, when there is a dispute.