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Help for Cohabiting Families

Feb 17, 2022   ·   4 minute read

At Evolve Family Law the family and private client solicitors have often commented on the very different ways that married and cohabiting couples are treated when it comes to UK family law and the laws on Wills and estate planning. The wholly different treatment can create many injustices. The saddest aspect is that when deciding whether to cohabit or get married most couples don’t realise the significance of their choice because they are not family solicitors or private client lawyers. Instead, they make their decision on whether to get married purely on personal preferences without a full appreciation of the legal implications.

Recently one of the perceived injustices has been righted as the Department for Work and Pensions has announced plans to extend bereavement support to cohabiting couples with children.

We are Manchester, Cheshire and Online Family and Private Client Solicitors. For legal help and advice on family law and Wills for cohabiting couples call Evolve Family Law or complete our online enquiry form.

Bereavement support for cohabiting families

You would think that if you were bereaved with dependent children, you would need financial support, whatever the legal status of your relationship.

The law previously said financial help was only available to claim if you were a bereaved parent with dependent children and you were either married or in a civil partnership. You could have been married a month and be able to make a claim but a five or fifteen-year committed cohabiting relationship was not recognised when it came to bereavement help.

The government  has now announced that the Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Support Payments will be claimable by the cohabiting partner of a deceased who had children living with their partner at the time of the partner’s death.

The announcement may appear to be very limited in scope but it is estimated that more than 22,000 families will be able to claim this bereavement financial support. To be eligible to make a claim a person in a cohabiting relationship with dependent children will just need to have been living with their partner at the time of their partner’s death.

The announcement isn’t law yet. The law will need to be changed by Act of Parliament. However, the government has said that if the law is changed it plans to allow bereaved cohabitees to make backdated claims to the 30 August 2018.

Cohabiting couple advice

If you are in a cohabiting relationship, it remains vital that you understand the basics of how your relationship will be treated in law if your relationship breaks down either because one of you decides to leave or if your partner passes away.

If you are cohabiting with a partner and you split up your rights and financial claims are limited and based on property law. To protect yourself and your children you need to understand your rights and preferably get a cohabitation agreement drawn up to safeguard yourself and your children.

If you are cohabiting it is also vitally important that you each make a Will and power of attorney. That is because, under the law, a cohabitee is not treated as their partner’s next of kin. That means that if your cohabitee dies without leaving a Will you won’t receive anything under intestacy rules and instead you will have to make a claim against the estate. Likewise, if your partner loses capacity because of an accident or ill health you won’t be able to make decisions on their behalf as under the law you aren’t their next of kin. A health and welfare power of attorney and a financial  power of attorney gives you the right to step in and help if your loved one is incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions on what is in their best interests.

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