The Law Society has warned that more than a million unmarried couples who are not in a civil partnership will inherit nothing if their partner dies without a will.
According to The Law Society, recent changes to the intestacy rules through the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014, which strengthened the position of married couples and civil partners, has left the position of cohabiting couples unchanged. Any dependent children will inherit the entire estate of the deceased, while the cohabiting partner stands to inherit nothing.
Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society, said that under the rules, assets passing to children are held in trust until they reach the age of 18, potentially leaving the surviving partner in emotional and financial straits, with no access to vital funds to help them to cope.
"Further, these assets must be paid to the child when they turn 18 – there is no other option. Many people would regard 18 as far too young to receive what could be a substantial sum of money," he said.
"A properly drafted will can ensure trustees hold the sum until a later age when children are more able to deal with an inheritance.
"These changes are a reminder of the importance of having a will. Dying without one not only means your final wishes go unmet, but could leave problems for your loved ones to sort out. Don't make this mess your legacy.”