Cohabitation on the rise - are you protected?
- AuthorElizabeth Fyfe
In a recent survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics, it was found that the number of cohabiting couple families continues to grow faster than married couple or lone parent families with an increase of 25.8% over the decade between 2008 and 2018.
The number of same-sex couple families has grown by more than 50% since 2015 and in 2018 one in four young adults aged between 20 to 34 years were living with their parents.
As a wills and probate solicitor, I see on a daily basis a vast array of families in very differing circumstances. Often it is not until a loved one passes away or a crisis hits the people consider whether they have adequate protection in place.
For example, many cohabiting couples are unaware that if one of the couple were to pass away the other party does not inherit any of their estate under the rules of intestacy. Without a valid will in place, the surviving partner can be left, potentially homeless and without means of support.
I have seen a growing trend and acted in many cases where the surviving partner is having to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 against the estate.
For many parents whose adult children are yet to leave home, it is often difficult for them to weigh in the balance providing a home for that adult child if they were to pass away against their competing desire to treat all children equally. Again, unless proper consideration has been given to this tricky issue when drafting a will, family discord can arise at the worst possible time.
Another often overlooked part of lifetime planning is Lasting Powers of Attorney. Many clients presume that if they are married they automatically have the right to manage the other person’s property and financial affairs in the event of incapacity.
This is incorrect. A married couple like any unmarried couple do not have any rights to manage the affairs of the other partner, unless they have signed and registered a legal Lasting Power of Attorney. Lasting Powers of Attorney for both Health and Welfare decisions and financial decisions are a crucial part of any family’s lifetime planning and ensure that in the event of sudden loss of capacity the correct legal authority is held so that decisions can be quickly taken for the benefit of the incapable person.
With such diversity in our families, making sure that advice is taken and kept up to date is essential.
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