Cohabitation Claims

In recent times, the number of cohabiting couples (unmarried, nor in a civil partnership, but living together) has increased exponentially, either through young couples anticipating or rejecting marriage, or older couples, perhaps after a divorce or death. Unfortunately, succession law has not kept up with this social norm to the detriment of such cohabitants, nor does it recognise the concept of a ‘common law spouse’.

Currently, if an individual has a Will in place which does not name the cohabitant as a beneficiary, the cohabitant has no right or entitlement under the estate. This could be the case even if the Will is several years old (but still perfectly valid) and benefits an estranged wife, for example.

If the individual dies without a Will, the cohabitant still has no immediate entitlement to the estate, but can apply to the Court for an award from the estate. This must be submitted within 6 months of the deceased’s death. The value of the award is dependent on the size and nature of the estate. However, in any case, the award is at the court’s discretion and may not be granted at all.

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