Cohabiting Couples and Inheritance – a change on the horizon?

There are over 3.3 million cohabiting couples living in the UK. It is a common misconception that the term ‘common law husband and wife’ has some sort of legal status and, in turn, that either party has rights akin to those obtained by marriage by reason of the fact that they are simply cohabiting.

The fact is that cohabiting couples have fewer rights, for instance, they have no automatic right to inherit each other’s estates and they have fewer pension rights.

On the death of one cohabiting partner the lack of a statutory right to an inheritance can and often does, lead to financial hardship for the surviving partner.

It is therefore essential that cohabiting couples make a Will if they wish to ensure that the surviving partner inherits anything at all without the need to make a formal claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

There may be good news on the horizon. On 2nd October 2018 the government announced that it intends to change the law to allow heterosexual couples to enter into a civil partnership.

The law may be about to be changed following a Supreme Court decision (R v Secretary of State for International Development [2018]) which held that English law discriminates against heterosexual couples and is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights in not allowing opposite sex couples the right to enter a civil partnership.

Same sex couples have had the right to form a civil partnership since 2004 and therefore have had enhanced inheritance rights than heterosexual couples.

The government intends to bring about the changes as quickly as possible following a consultation but there is currently no time line for any changes to be implemented.

In the meantime any cohabiting couples should still ensure that they have adequate Will arrangements in place by contacting Howells Wills, Trusts and Probate team on 0114 249 6666 or email


Lindsey Rawson

Homelessness at Home

Did you know that a person does not have to be sleeping on the street to be classed as homeless? And that legal aid is available to help in these situations.

Howells partner and housing solicitor Graham Hogarth reports that

“Unlawful eviction seems to be on the rise. We have had two enquiries from two unconnected tenants in the last few weeks both of whom have had their locks changed by the same landlord. Landlords cannot lawfully evict a residential tenant without a court order, and if they do it can give rise to awards of compensation of many and sometimes tens of thousands of pounds.”

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Look after your staff’s mental health, look after your business

As a society, we are becoming more aware of mental health and the impact this can have on people’s daily lives. 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem at some point. The stigma surrounding mental health is now slowly lifting as society becomes more open and tolerant and awareness is increasing.

How mental health can be supported in the workplace is therefore a serious issue and one that employers must give strong consideration to. Last year the government commissioned an independent review into this which has led to the publication of the Stevenson-Farmer Thriving at Work review –
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David Beckham escapes speeding fine and points. A case of rich privilege or something simpler?

A lot of people are asking me how David Beckham escaped points and a fine for speeding when he admitted that he had done so.

The answer is that there are rules that the prosecuting authority must comply with to make the prosecution valid. There is a basic defence and often applied by our motoring defence team.

Continue reading “David Beckham escapes speeding fine and points. A case of rich privilege or something simpler?”

Damages recovered from Home Office for unlawful detention

Howells have assisted a client in recovering substantial damages from the Home Office for a period of false imprisonment.

Over the period of his detention, his deteriorating mental health had not been properly taken into consideration. Had it been, different decisions or conclusions may have been reached about the most appropriate way to manage him pending a final decision on removal.

Unreasonable charges at inquest

A woman who needed to attend a three day inquest into her mother’s death was asked to pay £1,000 for use of a room during the hearing. This was later reduced to £324 after protests from her solicitor. After fighting to obtain Legal Aid for the inquest, the Legal Aid Agency declined to pay for the family room (news article)

We at Howells frequently assist families with inquests and representation as they look to get answers into the circumstances of their love one’s death. It is a difficult process at best and Legal Aid is rarely available for families to have the same representation the public bodies have present at the inquest. Then in addition when the local council look to charge the family for use of a room to retire to between witnesses or during breaks is totally unreasonable.