The inheritance rights of married and unmarried couples

A brief guide to the inheritance rights of married and unmarried couples

We specialise in dealing with inheritance disputes, representing people nationwide. We are often able to make claims on a no win, no fee basis. If you need guidance on the inheritance rights of married and unmarried couples then simply call our free legal helpline on 0333 888 0407 or email us at [email protected]

Inheritance rights of unmarried couples

There is a popular misconception that the term ‘common law wife’ or ‘common law husband’ has some legal force. Unfortunately it does not. Unmarried couples have no automatic inheritance rights.

If an unmarried partner dies without making sufficient provision for their surviving partner in their Will then the survivor has no automatic right to an inheritance from the estate. Nor do they have any rights under the existing intestacy rules where no Will has been made.

They would be entitled to bring a claim under the Inheritance Act, if they have been cohabiting for at least 2 years prior to the death, as husband and wife in the same household . This involves instructing specialist inheritance dispute solicitors like ourselves and pursuing a legal claim.

An Inheritance Act claim can also be made by a surviving unmarried partner where a Will made financial provision for them, but the provision provided is insufficient.

It is important to bear in mind that strict time limits operate in this area. An Inheritance Act claim should be pusued without delay as it will become time barred just 6 months after the date that probate is granted unless court proceedings are commenced.

Inheritance rights of spouses (including civil partners)

If a married person dies having made a valid Will, then the surviving spouse will receive what has been left to them in that Will. Spouses are entitled to be financially provided for, so if a Will fails to do this then they can make a claim under the Inheritance Act.

Where a married person dies without leaving a valid Will (dies intestate) then their surviving spouse is entitled to the entire estate if there are no children.

In situations where the deceased has children then their surviving spouse (or civil partner) will be entitled to inherit the deceased’s possessions along with the ‘Statutory Legacy’, which was increased to £322,000 in July 2023. Any residue above that figure will be divided equally between the spouse/civil partner (who receives 50%) and the children (who share the remaining 50%)

If these intestacy rules leave the surviving spouse without sufficient provision then an Inheritance Act claim can be made for greater provision. It is important to remember that Inheritance Act claims must be commenced at the earliest opportunity after death as there is a six month time limit from the Grant of Representation.

How we can help you

We are experienced inheritance dispute lawyers with an excellent track record of success.

We are often able to bring claims under the Inheritance Act on a No Win, No Fee basis, so please do not allow worries about legal costs put you off seeking justice.

If you are a bereaved spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner and unsure what your inheritance rights are then call us on freephone 0333 888 0407 for a free assessment of your claim.

The inheritance rights of married and unmarried couples