Unmarried partners are not automatically provided for under Ireland’s intestacy rules. This means that if you die without a Will, your partner will only inherit jointly owned property – and nothing else.

No such thing as a common law spouse

There is no such thing as a common law spouse in Ireland. Because of this, the intestacy rules set out in the Succession Act do not recognise unmarried partners. This means that if you die without a Will, your partner does not have a right to a share of your estate, aside from any jointly held assets.

So, if you own a property together as joint tenants, your partner will receive your share of the property when you die. Otherwise, they have no automatic entitlement to anything you own. Instead, your estate will be distributed according to the intestacy rules, whereby your assets are given to your next of kin. This might be your children, parents or siblings.

It does not matter how long you have been in a relationship. You and your partner might have been together for 10, 20 or 30 years. But if you are not married, then your partner is not automatically provided for after your death. The only way to ensure that he/she receives a share of your estate is to make a Will, naming him/her as a beneficiary.

Redress scheme for cohabiting couples

If you die without a valid Will in place, the only way your partner can obtain financial provision (other than asking your family for money) is via a court application. This became possible in January 2011 when a new law came into force. This allows unmarried partners to request a share of a cohabitee’s estate.

However, this typically entails a long and expensive legal battle. The application must be made within six months of the deceased’s death, meaning there is the added pressure of a short time frame. Also, unmarried partners are only eligible to apply if they were living with the deceased in an intimate and committed relationship for:

  • Five years prior to the deceased’s date of death, or
  • Two years prior to the deceased’s date of death, if there is a child in the relationship

If an unmarried partner does not meet the eligibility criteria, he/she has no legal recourse available.

Updating your Will after marriage

Therefore, if you want your partner to receive a share of your estate after your death, it is vitally important that you make a Will. You may express verbal wishes during your lifetime, but these will not be upheld after your death. The only way to ensure your loved one is provided for it to make a legally valid Will. Otherwise, he/she may be left with nothing.

If you do later get married, you must remember to update your Will. This is because marriage and civil partnerships automatically revoke any Wills that have previously been made.

Make a Will

If you want your unmarried partner to inherit a share (or all of) your estate, you must make a legally valid Will. To get started, please contact us Mullins & Treacy Solicitors. We are client focused and results driven.

Call us on 051 391 488 or email reception@mullinstreacy.ie for a no obligation enquiry.

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