With wedding season coming to an end there does appears to be a trend of couples living together without getting married. I have therefore prepared this blog looking into the pros and cons of living together and getting married in terms of proving for a loved one.

Common law spouse

The first thing to mention is that the law does not recognise what is sometimes called a ‘common-law spouse’ (in other words people who are in a relationship but not married). My colleague Lee discussed the intestacy rules (i.e. what happens if someone dies without leaving a will), and as can be seen from that, such a person would not benefit should their partner die without leaving a will.

Joint property

If a couple own a property together then whether the other would inherit that share may depend on how they own it.

As discussed in Lianne’s blog, there are two ways of jointly owning a beneficial interest in a property, namely as joint tenants or tenants in common.

If the property is owned as joint tenants, the deceased partner’s share of the property automatically passes to the surviving partner.

However, if the couple own the property as tenants in common the deceased share of the property will form part of their estate and distributed as per their will (or intestacy if there is no will).

Planning for the future

Without wishing to kill all romantic notions, some of the legal benefits of getting married to a long-term partner include the following:

  1. Spousal exemption: Any amount left to a spouse will not be liable for Inheritance tax, regardless of how much it is, until the death of the survivor (subject to their being rules for subsequent marriages).
  2. Transferable nil rate band: as discussed in this blog, spouses can use of the first £325,000 of their spouse’s nil rate band.
  3. Intestacy: Should your spouse not leave a will prior to their death the living spouse is entitled to the first £250,000 of the estate and half or the residue. The remaining half of the residue is then divided as per the intestacy rules.

Making a will

With the above in mind, it is especially important that unmarried couples should consider preparing a will to ensure that the surviving partner is protected and provided for.