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The answer to what happens to property, belongings and money if one partner from an unmarried couple dies might be quite surprising to you.

Myth My partner automatically receives everything.

There is no such thing as a common law spouse in terms of the Law. If you are a married couple you have greater rights than unmarried couples. There is no such things as automatic rights for unmarried partners even if you have been together for many years.

Myth My partner will automatically inherit our home.

Property owned as joint tenants would usually pass to the surviving partner. If the property is owned as tenants in common, then the surviving partner would not automatically inherit it. If there is no Will the rules of intestacy would come into effect. Rules of intestacy are out-dated and do not recognise unmarried partners. In this circumstance their share of the property would be passed onto other family members like parents or siblings. It is extremely time consuming and costly for a surviving partner to make a claim against the estate.

FACT Money held in joint accounts would pass to the surviving partner
If you hold joint accounts then those funds would pass onto the surviving partner even if you are unmarried. However, caution should be taken if either partner has been married before and still has joint accounts with that ex-partner as legally they will have a claim upon it.

FACT Potential Inheritance Tax issues

Unmarried couples do not have the same benefits available as married couples or those in civil partnerships. The Inheritance Tax threshold is £325,000 and should your estate exceed this 40% is payable.
If your estate exceeds the Inheritance Tax threshold you should make a Will and seek specialist estate planning advice to minimise your liabilities. This is the case whether you are married or unmarried.

Takeaway
If you are unmarried this relationship is not recognised by law; irrespective of how long you have been together, if you have children, even if you have grandchildren. It’s a sad fact that many people make assumptions only for their loved ones to be left without on death. It can be as simple as making a Will to protect your loved ones in the future. Whatever your relationship status don’t leave it to chance, if you have specific wishes then you should ensure they are legally binding. Our team at Family Matters are dedicated to protecting all of our clients and ensuring their on-going wealth is protected for generations to come. We look forward to helping you and your loved ones.

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