Nowadays many couples decide not to marry and prefer instead to cohabit.   As the number of cohabiting couples continues to increase, the law in Scotland recognises the importance of these relationships and has developed Family law accordingly.  This means that should you separate from your partner you may be entitled to make a financial claim from your estranged partner.  However rights following the death of a cohabiting partner are more complicated as Succession law in Scotland has not developed recently to better recognise modern family structures.    

Cohabitees rights

Cohabitees are able to make a financial claim upon the death of their cohabiting partner, but need to do so within 6 months of their partner’s death.  Additionally they can only make a claim if their partner had not made a Will (died intestate), were living in Scotland and were cohabiting immediately prior to the death.  The Court will review the estate and claims by other parties and family members as well as any payments made to the cohabitee as a result of the death but which are outwith the estate, for instance pension or life insurance payments,  to decide on the type and value of any award.    Any award would not exceed the provision that would be made for a spouse or civil partner under the rules of intestacy (i.e. where there is no Will).

Inheritance tax

When planning a Will, cohabiting couples should also consider Inheritance tax rules.  Whereas married couples and those in civil partnerships may pass assets to each other free of Inheritance Tax, cohabiting couples cannot. This means that inheritance tax planning when drafting your Will is of utmost importance

Our team of Private Client solicitors are able to help advise on the most efficient way to ensure that your assets are passed on to those you care about in the most tax efficient way.  Contact us on 01224 332400 or visit us at to find out more about our Wills and estate planning services.   

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