Legal Rights of an Unmarried Couple


11 March 2020

By Hollie Allcorn

There is a common misconception that unmarried couples have the same protection as those who have legally tied the knot due to the "common law spouse" rules.

However, this is not the case, as evidenced by last month's landmark ruling that denying unmarried parents the right to receive bereavement payments is against human rights law. There have been widespread media reports of bereaved partners fighting to receive support that they have been denied just because they were not married to their long-term partner. 

Currently means-tested payments of up to £10,000 are given to parents whose spouse or civil partner has died, however, according to the Office for National Statistics, 2,000 families with children lose out each year, as they do not have the same legal protection as married couples.

What many families are calling "heartless discrimination" also applies to Wills, as under the current intestacy rules if someone dies unmarried and without leaving a Will then their surviving partner has no automatic right to inherit. Instead, the entire estate would pass to blood relatives, cutting out the partner in all circumstances and potentially leaving them in a very difficult situation.

Leaving a Will puts the power back in your hands

You can specify who should benefit to ensure that they are a provided for. In the cases of those who are struggling to meet mortgage payments because they are not eligible for bereavement support payments, the government has said that they are now considering the recent court judgements on cohabiting couples with children. Meanwhile it goes without saying that it is important to consider if your loved ones are protected to prevent even more stress in what is already a very challenging time.

The Private Client team at Gepp Solicitors would be very happy to assist you plan for the future. If you have any questions or wish to book an appointment to discuss your wishes, please call 01245 228125 or email

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.