Our expert solicitors for Wills discuss what rights a cohabitee has on death
Posted on 29th June 2021
Our expert local solicitors for Wills discuss what rights a cohabitee has on the death of their co-habitant. Read our blog to find out more.
At MG Legal, we get a number of enquiries from cohabitees whose loved one, whether it be a family member or friend, has died and they shared a residence with them. Whether it be a cohabiting couple who have been together for many years or friends who have lived together for only a few years, when your co-owner dies it can be a stressful and uncertain time.
Below, our expert local solicitors for Wills have discussed what rights cohabitees have.
What is common law marriage?
Common law marriage is actually a myth, which surprises many of our clients at MG Legal. According to the Office for National Statistics, “The number of cohabiting couple families continues to grow faster than married couples and lone-parent families, with an increase of 25.8% over the decade 2008 to 2018”. Many of these cohabiting couples will be under the misapprehension that when their cohabitee dies, they will receive everything because they have been living together for X number of years. However, no matter how long a couple or people cohabit, there is no legal automatic right for them to benefit from the other’s death. Sadly, many people who have not had the opportunity to seek expert legal advice would not be aware of this.
How can I make provision for my cohabitee in my Will?
Every person’s circumstances are different. For some, a right of residence for the surviving cohabitee may be the best option. This could allow them to live in the property for a specified number of years, or for their lifetime, under certain conditions and with certain allowances. For others, they may want to ensure that their cohabitee has an outright gift of the property.
At MG Legal, our team know all too well that our clients may have different ideas of what they would want their cohabitee to inherit when they die. That is why we sit down with them (or, as it is at the moment, telephone them) to discuss their wishes and to advise them on what provisions they may wish to make for their cohabitee.
What is the Cohabitation Rights Bill?
Although there is currently no statutory provisions for cohabiting people, there is a proposed Bill that is being considered by the House of Lords. The Bill is currently in its early stages; however, you can follow its progress, here. According to the Bill, one of the aims will be to provide certain protections for cohabitees who live together (or have lived together) as a couple. The proposed Bill also makes provisions for children, when they meet the specified criteria. Our team at MG Legal will keep you updated as the Bill progresses through Parliament.
What are the current statutory provisions?
Unless a person has made a Will, the current statutory provisions for un-married cohabitees have not been updated, and a cohabitee would not benefit under the Rules of Intestacy. Instead, if there was no Will making provision, a cohabitee would need to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, which our expert solicitors have discussed, below.
How can a cohabitee make a claim for financial provision?
If as an unmarried cohabitee you have not been left provision because your loved one did not leave a Will, or they have made no provision for you in their Will, you may be entitled to make a claim under their estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the 1975 Act”).
To bring a claim, the claimant must be able to establish the following:
1. That they cohabited with the deceased for the entire two years immediately before their death.
2. They were living in the same household at the time of death. This does not necessarily just mean living in the same house as someone, but as being part of their household.
3. That they and the deceased were living as if they were married or civil partners.
The Court will consider the above, along with evidence of the lifestyle and practicalities of the relationship, and reach a decision about provision that should be made, if any, for the surviving cohabitee. The Court will take into account any provision already made, and if they feel that further provision should be made, maintenance could be granted. Section 3 of the 1975 Act 5 sets out the relevant elements of a claim.
What provisions can a cohabitee receive?
A cohabitee is usually entitled to provision for their ongoing maintenance only, and they do not enjoy the same level of provision as that of a spouse or civil partner. This may not be seen as fair, so to ensure that your loved one is provided for, contact our expert local solicitors for Wills to discuss making or updating your Will to provide for your cohabitee. Contact our team, here.
Can MG Legal, Solicitors near me, help?
At MG Legal, our expert team can offer you a fixed fee initial consultation to discuss your cohabitees estate and to provide advice on what steps you need to take if you are eligible to make a claim.
How can I contact MG Legal?
You can contact our expert team of local solicitors online, here, or contact your local office directly.
Our team are available during office hours, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. For assistance outside of office hours, email firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of the team will get back to you as soon as possible.
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