by Andy Auld 13 May 2016 Citizens Advice Advice Column
The Citizens Advice Bureau has a section showing what happens if someone who is not married or in a civil partnership dies. It starts with a question:
My partner with whom I have had a long-standing relationship died unexpectedly a short time ago. We were not married. Although we had talked about it quite a lot we had not got round to making a will. I know he would have wished me to inherit his estate, but, without a valid will, where do I stand? I am particularly worried that I might lose the house where I have lived for fifteen years.
It explains that when someone dies without leaving a will, their property and money (called their estate) is shared out in a specific way – called the rules of intestacy.
The only people who can benefit under intestacy are married or civil partners and some close relatives. Unmarried partners, divorced partners, ‘common-law’ partners, lesbian or gay partners, relations by marriage, carers and friends cannot benefit.
In terms two people living together and co-owning a house, it depends on how they jointly own it. If they are beneficial joint tenants, then the surviving partner automatically inherits the house. Both parties own the house and one can’t sell or re-mortgage without the consent of the other (without a court order).If they are tenants in common, then the surviving partner does NOT inherit the person who dies half. Each person owns a proportion of the house.
Even if you’re not married or a beneficial joint tenant you can have some rights as ‘beneficial interest’.
Joint bank accounts automatically pass to the surviving owner and don’t form part of the estate.
This is a complex subject – there’s more information in WillDrive – make sure you deal with it early!
This shows how important it is that you make a will, AND MAKE SURE IT’S VALID, especially if you’re living with a partner but not married.