The shape of families is changing. Many of us now, for so many valid reasons, decide marriage is not for us and raise our families together as unmarried couples, and why not? However, not surprisingly, the law has not kept pace with modern times and the idea that your life partner will be treated as a spouse is a myth.
Life partners are not considered next of kin in the eyes of the law. They do not benefit from Spousal Exemption for tax purposes, they do not count as a direct decedent so you will not be able to apply the Residential Nil Rate band for inheritance tax on your property.
If you pass without a Will (i.e. intestate) your partner will receive jointly owned assets and that is it. Which is an even more critical consideration if your property is not owned jointly.
Under the rules of intestacy, any children (from the current or previous relationships) or their issue will inherit the estate. If there are no children, the partner still does not inherit. The courts would look for surviving parents or siblings or even the Crown before considering the partner.
So what’s the answer? Get married and write your wills is the obvious solution, and if you’re not sure if you will marry or not, a simple contemplation of marriage clause into your mirror wills means your marriage will not invalidate any wills you make together. But if marriage is simply not on the cards good quality Wills are even more essential.