By Juliet Phillips-James, Director, Gomer Williams (as featured in the Llanelli Star)
Q: My partner and I have lived together for 20 years. I have always presumed that we would automatically inherit from each other on the death of one of us and therefore we have never made wills. We have quite a lot of assets between us and I have recently learned that the law does not recognise common law spouses. We have children together and from our previous relationships too.I would therefore like advice as to how best to provide for both my partner and children in my will, while ensuring ultimately if I die first my children will definitely have part of my estate after my partner's days.
A: You are quite correct in that you and your partner have no automatic right to inherit from each other. The only exception to this is that if you own your own property as joint tenants (as opposed to tenants in common) it will automatically pass to the survivor on death.
As you want to ensure that your children will ultimately get the majority of your estate on the death of you both, you should contact a solicitor who specialises in wills and trusts in order to look at various scenarios such as setting up a trust which your partner can benefit from the income during his lifetime, and thereafter the capital passes to your children.
As you also mention having significant assets, you will also need to take tax advice. Unlike a married couple, you will not qualify for spousal exemption.
Married couples leaving their estate to each other do not pay inheritance tax and on the death of the second spouse the inheritance tax threshold is increased in accordance with what percentage of the estate was left to the second spouse on the death of the first.
It is therefore important that given your circumstances you seek specialist legal advice from a solicitor dealing with wills and trusts, and also tax advice from an accountant or independent financial advisor.