Unmarried couples continue to lose out as marriage rates hit all time low

Monday 30th March 2009

New inheritance rules announced by the Ministry of Justice continue to ignore unmarried partners of people who die without a will, despite marriage rates falling to their lowest level for more than 150 years.

As of 1 February 2009, new rules on intestacy state that if a married person dies without making a will and leaves a spouse and children behind, the partner will receive the first £250,000 of the estate, instead of the previous rules where they received £125,000.

If a person dies without making a will and doesn't have any children, but has a close relative - a parent, brother or sister - their partner will receive the first £450,000, instead of the current £200,000. – but only if they are married or in a civil partnership.

Unmarried partners remain unprotected regardless of the length of time they have been co-habiting. The rule change offering only married couples further protection comes at a time when the proportion of men and women getting married is below any level found since figures were first kept nearly 150 years ago. And the number of weddings held in 2006 was the smallest since 1895, when the population was little more than half its present level.

Eric Gardner, Partner at Marsden Rawsthorn and an expert in Wills, Trusts and Estates, commented "in the eyes of the law there is no such thing as a common-law wife or husband. If you are cohabiting, you have no automatic right to inherit anything at all from your partner. The advice however is the same for everyone - if you want to ensure your loved ones are provided for, seek specialist advice and make a will."

Author: Administrator

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