A will is one of the best gifts you can give your loved ones. This is even more so in the case of couples who live together but are not married. It is important to be aware that when it comes to legal affairs and wills, love alone will not always prevail.
Your will, in particular, requires careful planning and consideration:
- If, as a couple, you are accumulating assets together or individually, make sure you have your intentions documented in your will in terms of how and to whom you want your assets distributed.
- Have some form of agreement, for example a contract of domestic partnership, to regulate your financial affairs.
- Record your wishes and intentions regarding your assets as far as your life partner is concerned. In this way, you are protecting each other from family members who may have a different view as to how your assets should be distributed.
The Law of Intestate Succession does not apply to life partners, but automatically kicks in when someone passes away without leaving a valid will. In order to determine who will inherit the deceased estate, the intestate succession formula works as follows:
If a person dies leaving only a married spouse behind, the spouse will be the sole heir.
- If there is no married spouse, but there are children, those children will inherit equal portions.
- If there is a married spouse and children, they will all get a share of the deceased estate.
- If there are only parents, the parents will inherit and if there are only siblings, they will inherit the deceased estate.
Based on this, if you are not married but in a stable monogamous relationship and your partner passes away without documenting what he/she wishes to leave you in terms of assets, you will not be able to inherit from his/her estate. It is strongly recommended that life partners speak to their financial adviser to guide them in protecting each other’s assets.
It is also advisable that partners in these relationships protect their interests by entering into a contract with one another, for example protection of property interest, or right to maintenance and support, depending on their circumstances. Naturally, it is also essential that life partners execute a last will and testament should they intend to leave assets to their unmarried partner.
Sanlam is a Licensed Financial Services Provider.