Cohabitees are misunderstanding the importance of Wills, study reveals

A new study suggests that UK cohabiting couples are misunderstanding the law and overlooking the importance of drawing up Wills.

According to research from insurance company Direct Line, more than a third of cohabiting couples do not fully understand what their legal rights would be if their partner unexpectedly passed away.

Worse still, one in ten (11 per cent) of cohabitees who jointly-own a property with their common-law partner wrongly believe that their partner would automatically inherit the property if they died.

In reality, contrary to popular myths, the concept of ‘common law marriage’ is not recognised under English law and cohabiting couples have very limited legal rights when it comes to claiming a share of their partner’s assets upon death.

In fact, the only way a surviving common-law partner can inherit a shared property is if the deceased has clearly stated in their Will that the property will pass to their surviving partner when they die.

Despite this, Direct Line’s research worryingly suggests that only a quarter of UK cohabiting partners have a Will.

Meanwhile, research from elsewhere suggests that cohabiting couples are now the fastest-growing family type in the UK, indicating that the number of Britons whose assets are inadequately protected in this way is rapidly rising.

The news highlights the importance of seeking specialist advice to draw-up a legally-binding Will today.

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Jeffrey Cohen
Jeffrey is Head of the Private Client department of Mackrell Turner Garrett’s London office and joined the firm in May 2014 from Davenport Lyons.