Q: My partner and I named each other as sole beneficiaries of our estates when we made Wills in 2008, assuming these would stand after we entered into a Civil Partnership last year. However, a friend has told us this is not the case. Please can you clarify the situation?
A: Any Will made prior to becoming Civil Partners would automatically have been revoked when your Civil Partnership was registered, so unless you have your Will re-written you could die intestate. Under intestacy law your partner would only receive the first £450,000 of your estate, the remainder being divided equally between your partner and any children of the family. If there are no children to consider, any surviving parents or siblings you had when you died would stand to inherit a share of the estate. It is therefore essential that you make a new Will to ensure your estate is dealt with in accordance with your wishes.
If you own a property together you should check whether you purchased it as ‘joint tenants', or as ‘tenants in common'. Without clear instruction a solicitor acting for you in the purchase may have assumed that you wished to purchase the property as ‘tenants in common.'
With a joint tenancy everyone on the title has an undivided interest in the property, i.e. owning equal and undivided shares in the property. With tenants in common, one tenant could own a greater share than the other and if one tenant in common dies without a valid Will their half of the property would pass firstly to any children they had. If there were no children, under intestacy rules parents would inherit and if they were not alive then siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and then more distant relatives - but crucially not to the surviving partner of an unregistered relationship, be that a same sex couple or otherwise.