Legal advice from Jennifer McGuinness, an expert in Will disputes at FDR Law, Palmyra Square, Warrington
Do partners have an automatic right to inherit?
Q: Although I don’t have a Will, would I be right to assume my partner will automatically inherit everything if I die? We have been living together for eight years and have a child together, although I never formally divorced my previous husband.
A: I would strongly advise you to make a Will at the earliest opportunity.
If you die ‘intestate’, without a Will, there are new legal guidelines about who would inherit your estate. Common Law partners have no protection or right at all.
From 1st October 2014, a surviving married partner would take all of the first £250,000 and then be fully entitled to half of the remainder. Any children only inherit half of anything above £250,000 – and then not until they’re 18.
As you’ve not formally divorced your ex-husband, he would still be entitled to a share of your estate. And although you have been living together with your current partner for eight years, he would have no automatic right to anything, even your share of your joint home.
This may seem very unfair but that is the current legal situation and the only way to protect your partner’s interests – and your child’s - would be to make a will.
If you died without a Will, your current partner could challenge the way your assets are divided under the existing law but with no guarantee of success. Common sense does usually prevail in the courtroom but this would incur additional legal costs and if your ex-husband decided to contest the challenge, both parties could end up paying big time to sort out the mess. It is much easier not to let the mess occur in the first place by making a proper Will.