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It is a common misconception that if you have been in a relationship or lived with your partner for a particular length of time, that at the end of that period, you will be treated as “common law spouses” with the legal rights granted to married couples or those in a civil partnership.

Sadly, in English law, the concept of common law spouses is not recognised, and regardless of how long you and your partner have been in a relationship or lived together, be it three months or thirty years, if you die without a Will in place, they will not inherit from your estate.  If you die without a Will, your estate will be dealt with according to the intestacy provisions, which set out a strict order of who inherits from your estate, based upon the relatives that you have at your death, and to a certain extent, the value of the assets.  Partners and cohabitants are not included within this list and so will not benefit from your estate.

In such circumstances, your partner may be entitled to make a claim for financial provision based on the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependent) Act 1975, although this can involve having to bring a legal claim against other family members, causing harm to relationships at what is already a very distressing time.  This course of action is also very uncertain and can prove extremely costly.

To ensure that your loved ones will be provided for on your death, you will need to make a Will and if you already have a Will in place, you should review this periodically or whenever there is a change in your circumstances.  It is also important to remember that if you do make a Will and you subsequently get married or enter into a civil partnership, any Will that you made prior to then will usually be revoked.

To discuss making a Will, please contact Helen Robinson, a Solicitor in our Private Client department  at hrobinson@mincoffs.co.uk  or by telephoning 0191 212 7748.

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