Debunking myths about unmarried couples and pension rights should one partner die
A recent survey, which reported that cohabiting couples mistakenly believe they would automatically have rights to their partner’s pension on their death, reinforces the misunderstanding and confusion which still prevails.
Most pension companies will not pay out to cohabiting partners upon death – particularly occupational schemes. However there are some limited circumstances where the pension arrangement, with the agreement of the partner, can make a provision.
Unlike married couples, cohabitees are not entitled to receive the state pension or bereavement allowance for dead partners. This makes it even more important to scrutinise carefully the terms of every private pension scheme partners contribute to – as well as agreeing the entitlement of each to a share of the other’s in writing.
The survey also highlighted that one in 10 couples living together wrongly thought they would inherit their partner’s share of a jointly owned property if they died.
If a partner passes away without making a will, the law says that a property in their sole name – or their defined share of it – must go to their next of kin. First among these are any spouse, and then any children, followed by the next closest group of living relatives.
The surviving partner is not classed as a surviving spouse for pension purposes because the couple were not married. He or she may be able to claim against the deceased partner’s estate if they have not made reasonable provision for their partner, and subject to other conditions. To avoid this potential issue, both partners are advised to make wills. Alternatively, they should sign a cohabitation agreement which would then state what would happen either if they separated or on the death of one of the parties.
If either partner dies without drawing up a will, or having made one without arranging reasonable provision for the other, the surviving partner would have a potential claim as a cohabitee if the couple had lived together for at least 2 years when death occurs.
If the 2 year requirement cannot be satisfied, the surviving partner may be able to claim on part of the deceased partner’s estate as a dependent. It is important to bear in mind that a dependent’s claim ranks lower in priority than the cohabitee’s claim. Polly please confirm if this is the case
Our highly skilled family law specialists are adept at dealing with issues arising from cohabitation – whether advising you on your rights before you cohabit – or if your relationship has broken down.
If the 2 year requirement cannot be satisfied, the surviving partner may be able to claim on part of the deceased partner’s estate as a dependent. It is important to bear in mind that a dependent’s claim ranks lower in priority than the cohabitee’s claim and may not be viewed as generously.
For more information about any aspect of cohabitation or family law, call Jones Myers at our Leeds office on 0113 246 0055, our Harrogate office on 01423 276104, visit www.jonesmyers.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @helpwithdivorce