Today, more couples are choosing to live together rather than marry. Often in the romantic rush to move in together, cohabitees forget that, legally and financially, they have fewer rights than married couples.
For example, when a husband or wife dies without leaving a will and there are no children, the surviving spouse is automatically entitled to up to £130,000 of heritable property, £22,000 in furniture and £58,000 cash according to the Scots law of succession. Unmarried couples have no such rights. There have been tragic cases where couples have been living together for many years and, on the death of one partner, the survivor has lost his or her home when assets are distributed to the deceased's family according to the law of succession.
When a property has been purchased in joint names by a couple, it should be remembered that title does not automatically pass to the survivor. So it is essential that unmarried cohabitees prepare Wills which properly reflect their wishes.
Taxes, like death are a certainty. Under current law, the tax man does not recognise cohabitees as having similar tax status to married couples. For example, on the death of a husband or wife, all assets passing to the surviving spouse are free of Inheritance Tax regardless of the amount involved. But for cohabitees there is no exemption. All assets passed to a surviving cohabitee attract Inheritance Tax (if above the nil rate band threshold).
Cohabiting couples can, by making Wills, often mitigate some of these disadvantages so protecting the surviving partner.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.