The myth of Common Law Marriage and how to protect your assets if co-habiting

If you’re not married to your partner (or have not formed a civil partnership) and you die before you make a will, your partner will not automatically inherit anything from you. It doesn’t matter how long you were together. It doesn’t matter how committed you were. Instead, the law dictates that everything will go to your nearest blood relative, regardless of your wishes. In fact, if you don’t leave a Will, the Crown is more likely to automatically inherit from you than your partner!

The myth of “Common Law Marriage”.

One in six couples in Britain live together without getting married.

Many are in long term relationships and might describe their other half as a partner or a common-law husband or wife.

The term “Common Law husband or wife” was abolished under the Marriage Act of 1753!  Legally there is no such thing as a common law relationship.

Many couples are living in blissful ignorance of how few rights they have over property, inheritance and children, when a partner dies.

The Solution is simple.

Writing a Will and including your partner as a beneficiary can avoid all the upset and distress associated with dying intestate when co-habiting.

Your Farsight Wills representative can guide you through the options available, including tax efficiency, various types of trusts and tenancies that can protect your loved ones after your death.

If you are still not convinced about the importance of writing a Will when co-habiting please take a moment to read Abby’s story…

When Dave collapsed in front of me I thought it was the worst thing that could happen – but I was wrong. He hadn’t made a Will and I ended up with nowhere to live.

We met through my work. He was really easy to talk to and had a larger-than-life smile. He’d lost his wife two years before, to cancer. He had two grown up daughters, Sarah and Natalie.

After a while, we moved in together, and we had nine very happy years and two sons, Jon and Danny. Then one evening he collapsed. He died before the ambulance arrived.

I had stopped working when Jon was born as Dave made enough for the both of us. We had talked a couple of times about making a Will; he knew what he wanted but never wrote it down.

Because we weren’t married and he hadn’t made a Will everything was divided equally between the four children. I was left with nothing.

Sarah and Natalie applied to become the administrators of his estate, which means they have control over my boys’ inheritance until they are 18. I had nowhere to live because our family home was not in our joint names. I had no money, and nowhere to go.

I didn’t imagine things could get any worse. Then one day I came home to find a note from my step daughters. They had taken all of Dave’s belongings: his clothes, photos, even the watch I’d given him for his 45th birthday. The note also said they and their grandmother, Dave’s mother, were arranging his funeral. They would not accept any suggestions or offers of help. There was nothing I could do.

I tried to talk to Sarah and Natalie about what Dave had wanted but they weren’t interested. So I took some legal advice and made a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975. It’s a claim against Dave’s estate for some money for myself and for the right for the boys and me to live in our house.

The money I’ve asked for is much less than Dave would have wanted; but it will only take more time, effort and hostile negotiation, to get any more. The legal costs will come to over £20,000 as it is. Money I could have used to bring up the boys.  If only Dave had made a Will.

(Re-produced from