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Same-sex partners unaware of legal rights, study reveals

More than one in three (33 per cent) members of the LGBTQ+ community wrongly believe that they would be entitled to a share of their cohabiting partner’s estate if they were to die, a report has revealed.

The finding has been published as part of a new study into the financial and marital status of same-sex partners.

The research, compiled by Farewill, also found that one in five (17 per cent) members of the LGBTQ+ community assume that they would inherit their partner’s entire estate because they own a house together.

Likewise, a worrying 30 per cent of LGBTQ+ couples believe they have the same legal rights as married couples because they have been in a relationship for “more than five years”.

The study comes after recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed that the number of same-sex couples recorded as living together in the UK has risen by more than 50 per cent since 2015.

Contrary to popular opinion, however, cohabiting couples and ‘common law’ partners have few legal rights compared to those in a civil partnership or married.

It means that when a cohabiting couple separates or when one partner dies without leaving a Will, the other partner is not automatically entitled to anything, such as their pension, income, property or assets.

Surviving partners may also face obstacles when attempting to deal with the probate of a partner, such as accessing bank accounts and closing utility bills.

In light of the research, experts have now urged cohabiting couples to consider the legal securities of marriage or a civil partnership, as well as writing a watertight Will.

Commenting on the study, Dan Garrett, CEO of Farewill, said: “We need to recognise the changing face of modern British families and how this impacts the estate planning process. Unfortunately, the legal rights for cohabiting couples, those in civil partnerships and unmarried parents of children are not the same as they are for married couples, despite many believing that they are the same.

“There needs to be greater education around how this can affect and potentially break family relationships after a death in the family.”

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Peter Burden

Peter Burden

Associate Director and Head of the Family Department at Mander Hadley Solicitors
I am experienced in all areas of family law, including divorce, financial remedy claims, disputes over children, separation agreements, cohabitation disputes, pre and post nuptial agreements, living together agreements, non-molestation orders and occupation orders.

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