The latest family and household figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that the number of cohabiting couple families continues to grow.
Between 2008 to 2019, there has been a 25.8% increase in families of this type. Cohabiting couple families are even growing faster than married couple and lone parent families.
In 2018, there were 19.1 million families in the UK which includes:
- 12.8 million married couple families (67.1%)
- 3.4 million cohabiting couple families (17.9%)
- 2.9 million lone parent families (15%)
The ONS statistics, released in August 2019, also highlighted how the number of people living alone has increased from 7.7 million in 2017 to over 8 million in 2019. The rise has been driven by women aged 45 to 64 years and men aged 65 to 74 years.
Only marriage or civil partnerships give legal rights to partners. Therefore, it’s important for those cohabiting or living alone to ensure they have an up-to-date and valid Will to protect their loved ones.
The importance of keeping an up-to-date Will
If someone dies without a Will, the estate would be distributed following the rules of intestacy and those closest to the deceased may not necessarily inherit.
For example, if someone in a cohabiting couple was to die, their partner would not be entitled to inherit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Although, in Scotland, the Family Law Act 2006 introduced some rights for cohabiting couples, such as allowing the surviving partner to make an application to the court for provision on intestacy.
However, it still does not give cohabiting couples the same rights as married couples or those in a civil partnership.
An up-to-date Will which makes provisions for a long-term partner is the best way to negate the requirement for marriage or a civil partnership in order to look after a partner after death. By creating a Will, individuals can ensure their wishes are heard and their estate goes to their chosen beneficiaries.
With increases in the number of people cohabiting and living alone, Will Writers need to take this into account when creating Wills. Firstly, they need to ensure that their clients understand exactly how their estate will be distributed.
Secondly, Will Writers need to consider family dynamics. A Will that has considered the make-up of the family and all eventualities is less likely to be contested and the estate is more likely to be protected. Additionally, Wills should be reviewed regularly to ensure that any major life changes are accounted for.