After research was published this month showing that more than half of parents with children under 18 have not made a Will, solicitors are warning cohabiting couples about the dangers of dying without plans for the distribution of their estate in place.
While it is common for cohabiting couples to assume that their property and assets will simply be transferred to their partner upon death, this is simply not the case.
In fact, the law dictates that if one partner dies without a Will, known as intestacy, all of their assets will be automatically inherited by direct heirs, usually children or parents.
So, what options do cohabiting couples have? The first and most obvious solution is to write a Will. You can use a Will to describe exactly how you would like your estate to be distributed. For example, you could allow your cohabiting partner to live in the family home until their death, known as a life interest, at which point it will be passed to your children.
A cohabitation agreement can also be hammered out between a cohabiting couple to decide how assets will be split in the event of separation, and to a degree, on death.
You can also use a Will to describe how you would like your pension and any income from investments to be shared. This is especially important if your partner is financially dependent on you.
The second option is marriage or a civil partnership. While a Will is still essential, spouses enjoy certain tax benefits such as the ability to transfer the ownership of assets to one another with no Inheritance Tax liability.
Mixed-sex couples in England and Wales will soon also be able to choose to have a civil partnership rather than get married after the Supreme Court ruled that the choice should be available to all.
Ultimately, cohabiting couples should remember that they are not afforded the same rights as married couples or those in a civil partnership and should make writing a Will a priority, if only to avoid stress and heartache for loved ones after they are gone.