Cohabitee Inheritance Rights: What you need to know

If you have been living with someone but were not married to them, you could find yourself in a difficult situation if they die without a Will. We look at cohabitee inheritance rights and what you might be able to claim from your partner’s estate.

Couples who live together but who are neither married nor in a civil partnership, must put a Will in place.  The reason for this is that, should someone die without a Will, a cohabiting partner will not be entitled to receive anything. The Rules of Intestacy dictate that a spouse or civil partner will inherit a share of their deceased’s partner’s estate, or in some cases, all of it. However, cohabitees are not included in these rules.  They do not automatically inherit anything unless named in a Will.

What can a cohabiting partner do if they do not inherit?

If a cohabiting partner does not inherit anything after a death, either because they were not named in the deceased’s Will or because the deceased did not leave a Will, then they may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the Act). The Act allows the following individuals to make a financial claim against the estate of someone who has died:

  • A spouse or civil partner
  • A former spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or entered into another civil partnership
  • A cohabiting partner, provided that they were living with the deceased for at least two years immediately before the death
  • A child of the deceased
  • Anyone treated as a child of the family by the deceased
  • Anyone that the deceased was supporting financially at their death

If you were left a legacy, but it does not meet your reasonable financial needs, then you may be able to ask the court for a larger sum.

Making a claim against the estate of a partner

As a cohabitee, you will need to have been living in the same household as the deceased as if you were husband and wife for the whole of the two years before they died. However, there is some flexibility in this and if you were spending part of the week at another property, you may still be eligible.

How much is a cohabitee entitled to from their partner’s estate?

If your Inheritance Act claim as a cohabitee is successful, the court will award you ‘reasonable financial provision’. In assessing how much this is, it will take a range of points into consideration, including the following:

  • Your financial resources and those that will be available to you in the foreseeable future
  • Your financial needs, including those in the foreseeable future
  • The needs of any beneficiary or other claimant
  • Any other obligations the deceased may have had
  • Any physical and mental disability you or any other interested party has
  • Any other matter that the court considers relevant
What can a cohabitee expect from their deceased partner’s estate?

If your claim for reasonable financial provision as a cohabitee is successful, there are several options open to the court, including:

  • Paying you a lump sum
  • Transferring a property into your name
  • Providing regular payments
  • Setting up a trust to provide for you
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