Experts Welcome Law Commission’s Report On Inheritance Rights

New Review Suggests Changes To Current Legislation

14.12.2011

Family law and Will dispute experts at Irwin Mitchell have welcomed new Law Commission proposals which would give unmarried couples access to their partner’s estate if they died without putting a Will in place.

The new report has called on those who have lived together for five years to be given rights to their partner’s assets, while cohabiting couples with children will be able to inherit the estate of their partner after just two years of living together.

According to the Law Commission, the proposals are aimed at bringing the laws brought into force in 1925 up-to-date with current trends, as a huge number of couples now choose to live together before marriage.

Specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have backed the proposals, stating that the change would ensure that many people are given access to the assets they are entitled to.

Adam Draper, a solicitor in the firm’s Will, Trust and Estate Disputes team, said: “We act in a number of cases in which people have been left with little option but to launch legal action under the Inheritance Act 1975 in order to access the estate of a loved one.

“Many people die every year without a Will, which means that their loved ones are often left with little idea of their wishes and how they would like their estate to be divided.

“While we would always urge people who are living together unmarried to write a Will and make their wishes as clear as possible to friends and family, the proposals in the report are a step towards ensuring those who have not been able to put provisions in place do not leave their loved ones in a difficult position.”

Alison Hawes, a Partner in the firm’s Family Law team, added: “The government recently suggested it would not be looking at reforming cohabitation law in the near future, but this report indicates that the issue should well and truly be put back on the agenda.

“It is fair to say that many couples simply do not realise their rights when they live together without getting married and fail to recognise that cohabitants are not regarded as each other’s next of kin, which is a huge concern considering that 2.2 million people cohabit in the UK at the moment.

“It would be welcome to see the law move with the times when it comes to this issue.”