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Living with your partner?

More and more people live with their partners rather than get married or have a civil partnership. No one wants to think about what will happen when their partner dies, however, unless this is discussed and suitable arrangements are made, the result can prove very difficult for both the partner and the family who are left behind.

Issues that may arise:

· Any assets held in joint names will automatically go to the partner. Whether this applies to your house depends on how you own it and if you do not know, you should find out. You may even have to sell your house.

· Anything in the sole name of your partner will not come to you, unless there is a will leaving it to you. It will pass to certain classes of the blood relatives of your partner. This can be serious – all cash and investments may now go to your partner’s children and if they are under the age of 18 years old, their parent, your partners ‘ex’, will now administer your partner’s estate for those children.

· You and your partner need to consider the needs of each other and also of your own children or family. Though it is very difficult to make everyone happy making a will can help. One option might be to allow the partner to live in your share of the house for their lifetime but once they have died the share would go to your children.

· Pensions and death in service benefits must also be considered. Payments are usually at the discretion of the trustees of the scheme. A will does not help here but you can make sure you have a recent declaration of your wishes completed and sent to the Trustees.

· Life policies/Endowment policies – if on joint lives these will pay out to the joint owner. They are not linked in any way to your mortgage so even though you may have taken them out intending that they will pay off the mortgage this may not happen. With policies on a sole life the proceeds will be part of your estate and be dealt with under the will unless you have completed a declaration of a trust where the proceeds will be paid as the trust document provides.

· Tax – it is very easy to forget about Inheritance Tax (IHT). Spouses and Civil Partners need not worry as all assets left to them are free from IHT. This is not true where you are not married or in a civil partnership. Currently only the first £325,000 will be free of IHT. If your combined assets are more than this you should be seeking advice on how to avoid IHT.

· Dealing with the Funeral can also be an issue and a clear statement of wishes or a pre-planned funeral can help prevent problems.

When you have just lost a partner you should not have to worry about any of these issues so seek advice.

For more information, please contact Jean Newton, Partner Head of Private Client and Conveyancing Department at QualitySolicitors Parkinson Wright on 01905 726789 or

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