Why cohabiting couples should make a will

When Tom and Pete bought their first property together, life couldn’t have been

better. They both had good jobs pulling in decent salaries and were excited about

spending the rest of their lives together.

They chatted about making a will a few times, but somehow life always got in the way.

Until one day, 10 years after moving in together, Pete got a call that would change his

life forever – Tom had been killed in a car accident.

The intestacy trap

On top of grieving for his partner, Pete found he was also facing an uncertain financial

future. UK intestacy laws meant he wasn’t entitled to inherit any of Tom’s property or

financial assets unless he had joint ownership. Pete knew that Tom would have wanted

him to inherit everything but, without a will, that didn’t matter.

Pete and Tom had owned their property as joint tenants, meaning Tom’s share

automatically passed to Pete according to the rights of survivorship. However, without

children or any surviving parents or siblings, the remainder of Tom’s assets ended up

being passed onto a distant uncle he had scarcely known.

Without Tom’s savings and investments, life insurance policy or even the car that Tom

owned but they both used, Pete now struggles to pay his bills.

How a will could have helped

Had Tom got around to writing a will, he would have been able to specify exactly who

would receive what from his estate, including his savings, investments, car and other

belongings. As well as writing a will, Tom could have made his wishes known by

nominating beneficiaries to his pension and writing life policies under trust. By taking

these steps, he would have given Pete the extra financial support he now so desperately


As it stands, Pete still has the legal right to claim against Tom’s estate as they had been

cohabiting for more than two years - but this will be a costly and time-consuming

process and a positive outcome isn’t guaranteed. If Tom had made a will, this added

stress could have been avoided.

Don’t put it off

In the UK, the number of cohabiting-couple families is growing faster than the number

of married-couple and lone-parent families. However, cohabiting couples have none of

the legal protections afforded by marriage. A will is one way to ensure your partner

inherits according to your wishes. Despite this, three in five UK adults do not have one.

Let us help

Any will must be drawn up accurately without ambiguities and executed correctly for it

to be valid and effective. So, it makes sense to use an experienced professional.

A consultation with a will-writing expert will allow you to explore ways in which to

reflect your wishes and protect the financial future of your loved ones in the most tax-

efficient way possible.

If you’d like to find out more about how to arrange a will, we’re here to help.

Will writing is not part of The Openwork Partnership’s services and is offered in our

own right.

The Openwork Partnership accepts no responsibility for this aspect of our business. Will

writing and Trusts are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Key takeaways:

  • If you’re cohabiting with your partner (but you’re not married or in a civil partnership), it’s important you both make a will. This can ensure that if one of you dies, the surviving partner inherits according to the other’s wishes.

  • An expert can help ensure your will is drawn up accurately and executed correctly so that it is valid and effective.