In his Money Saving Expert newsletter, Mr Lewis highlighted a problem that unmarried couples who live together could face. Mr Lewis highlighted that those who are not married or in a civil partnership have “no status under inheritance law”. This means that a partner could be at risk of losing an asset they assumed they would naturally inherit.
One example the Money Saving Expert highlighted was if a couple live together and one partner dies, then the other may not get the house even if they’ve lived in it for years.
He explained that it didn’t matter if a couple had been together for 82 years or had had 17 children together.
Due to this, he urged those in these long-term relationships to take the steps to write a will or draw up a contract in order to clearly describe the wishes a person has upon their death.
Cohabitating couples are the fastest growing family type in England and Wales; according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) there are around 3.6 million cohabitating couple families in the UK.
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This is where a will could make a big difference.
Mr Lewis pointed to the importance of wills in his newsletter and encouraged his readers to have the “unpleasant” chat with their family and friends.
A will is a legal document which outlines what will happen to someone’s money, possessions and property, which is referred to as a person’s estate, under inheritance law.
If a person dies without a will, it could cause complex issues for a person’s loved ones if wishes were not made completely clear.
If a person clearly states in their will that they would like their partner to inherit everything and that is legally sealed, then there should be no issues in the inheritance.
For unmarried couples, Mr Lewis also recommended them to make a “cohabitation agreement”.
Having a water-tight agreement is likely to help later down the line if disagreements occur.
He said: “If you live with your partner, but are neither married nor in a civil partnership, you may want to consider drawing up a ‘cohabitation agreement’ in addition to writing a will.
“While a will determines what happens to your assets and belongings once you die, a cohabitation agreement spells out what happens if your relationship breaks down – so a bit like a will for the living.”
While a will can help significantly with inheritance, it does not make a difference to the tax someone pays.
This is particularly important for cohabiting couples, as they do not have the same rights in life or death as married couples.
Without a will, a cohabitee could be able to claim under the Inheritance Act 1975.
This would be possible if they have been in a relationship for at least two years up to the point of their partner’s death, and they were living in the same household as if they were a married couple.
These claims, however, are complicated and can be expensive to progress and experts do not predict a change in the law in the foreseeable future, so many cohabitating couples are urged to take active steps to protect themselves financially.