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Unmarried and cohabiting with your partner?

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

If you’re unmarried and cohabiting with your partner, what are your rights when one dies? 

How can you be sure that your partner benefits from your inheritance if the worst happens, and one of you dies?

As you might know, unmarried couples don’t have the same legal protection as married couples. An unmarried couple can never be ‘common law married’ because that law hasn’t existed since 1753! The only way to get the legal rights of a married couple is to get married. This remains the case even if you have lived together for a long time, have kids or buy a house together.

Unmarried cohabiting couples have no automatic right of inheritance if their partner dies without a Will.  When someone dies without a Will, there are legal rules (called ‘intestacy rules’) which decide who benefits from their estate. Unmarried partners are not included under intestacy rules.

When one cohabiting partner dies without a Will, there are complex laws and other considerations such as:

  • The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975

  • Grant of Probate / Letters of Administration 

  • The financial resources and needs of the applicant, and any other applicants making a claim 

  • The resources and needs which any beneficiary is likely to have in the foreseeable futureThe value (after tax) and nature of the deceased’s estate

  • Any physical or mental disability of any applicant

Unmarried couples living in Spain

The law in Spain cur­rently does not auto­mat­ic­ally re­cog­nise a claim on prop­erty and as­sets between un­mar­ried couples, should one partner die. Neither do such couples auto­mat­ic­ally in­herit their part­ner’s prop­erty and as­sets upon death – un­less there is a leg­ally re­cog­nised Span­ish Will which states what you want to happen.  

As you can imagine, this can all be a legal minefield. If this applies to you, and you’d like to be guided through it, call me to discuss further on +44 7831 379562 (UK) or +34 622 374 738 (Spain), or email me at to arrange a confidential chat.

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