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Cohabitants Could Inherit Nothing Under New Intestacy Laws

With new intestacy laws coming into play, there has been a lot of news recently about how it will affect residents of the UK and their loved ones once someone dies without a will. We came across an article on the Solicitors Journal website just the other day, detailing what these changes mean for cohabiting couples – and were a little taken aback to discover that over one million cohabitants actually stand to inherit absolutely nothing.

As was warned by the Law Society, unmarried and same sex couples not in a civil partnership will inherit nothing unless explicitly stated in an official will or there are no dependent children. Under the new laws dependent children are set to inherit the entire estate.

The changes were announced in the Inheritance and Trustees' Powers Act 2014 which left the position of cohabiting couples unchanged but strengthened the position of those who are married. Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society, noted that if a child does inherit the entire estate it will be held in a trust fund until they reach the age of 18 – but this could leave the respective partner in a financial predicament.

He also noted that for many 18 is regarded is "far too young to receive what could be a substantial sum of money." If an individual drafts a professional will then they will ensure that whatever estate they wish to leave behind will go to the correct person at the desired time – for example "a properly drafted will can ensure trustees hold the sum until a later age when children are more able to deal with an inheritance", he noted.

This is also the only way to ensure that couples who aren't married or in a civil partnership receive something in the event of death.

Do you think the law needs to do more to take into account the ever changing structure of family dynamics?