Many non-married cohabiting couples don’t fully understand their legal rights with regards to their partner’s estate and therefore risk finding themselves in a vulnerable financial position should their partner pass away.
Lack of Understanding of Legal Rights
This is the finding of new research by Direct Line Life Insurance, which revealed that as many as 38% of cohabiting couples don’t know how the laws of succession apply to non-married couples. The research also found that:
- 11% believe that if they own a home together, they would inherit their partner’s share of the property in the event of their death.
- One in twenty believes that if their partner was to pass away, they would have immediate access to their money and possessions.
- One in twenty of those living with their partner assume they would have immediate access to their pension were they to die.
Apply to Court
Unfortunately, however, the legal position in Scotland is less straightforward than that. The best way to protect your cohabiting partner and make sure they inherit your assets in the event of your death is to make a will. However, according to the Direct Line research, less than a third (26%) of co-habiting partners have a will, compared to 52% of married couples.
In the absence of a will, a surviving cohabitant will need to make an application to court under the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 to ask for a share from his or her cohabitant's estate. This needs to be done within six months of the partner’s death.
When the court considers giving a share of someone's estate to a former cohabitant, it will look at the couple's relationship, and consider matters such as:
- How long the couple lived together
- What sort of relationship they had (was it similar in nature to a marriage or a civil partnership?)
- What sort of arrangements they made about money. For example: Did they have a joint bank account? Did they support one another financially?
Cohabitation Increasingly Common
The research also reveals that less than a third (29%) of cohabiting couples have life insurance, which could leave their surviving partner and family in a difficult financial position, struggling to manage funeral costs, mortgage/rental payments and other everyday household expenditure.
“As our society changes, marriage is further down the agenda for many couples,” commented Jane Morgan, Business Manager of Direct Line Life Insurance. “It is very common for partners to live together for extended periods of time before getting married, if they marry at all. However, the law is still somewhat behind the times in regards to cohabiting partners and worryingly, millions of Brits are under the false impression that they have the same legal and financial security as married couples.”
“Our research aims to highlight the lack of awareness around this issue and will hopefully encourage people to think about putting plans in place in case the worst should happen,” she said.
For expert legal advice on writing a will then contact our specialist solicitors today.
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.