Couples, thruples, polygamous relationships and non-monogamy

Do not bury your head in the sand – when you have a non-traditional relationship structure the headline is – ‘THE INTESTACY RULES WON’T CUT IT’.  The good news is that there is planning that can be done to ensure that those who you would wish to benefit from your estate can do.

Your loved ones will thank you for making a will, addressing pension nominations, life insurance beneficiaries and letting your employer know who should benefit from any death in service award.

If someone who relies upon you financially or a cohabiting partner has not been provided for, then they could potentially make a claim against your estate to say that they should have been.  This not only costs the estate in legal fees but can lead to complex emotional reactions – all at a time when the person or people will be grieving.

For a cohabitant to be considered a potential beneficiary by the Court (where there is no provision in the will) the parties must have been living in one household, and as if were in a legal partnership (marriage or civil partnership).

Things to consider are:

  • Living arrangements
  • Maintenance of lifestyle
  • Flexibility in future changes / wishes
  • Financial circumstances of the different partners
  • Where property is co-owned, how ‘portions’ were paid for

How are these matters viewed by the Court?  When proper planning has not been put in place, and a dispute arises, it is the Court who decides how the estate should devolve.

There is case law on multiple marriages.  Although a legal partnership cannot be made between more than two people under the law of England and Wales, cases have come up before in the Courts where such partnerships were made abroad, or unlawfully in the UK.  Although the issues are complex, it is generally considered a good starting point to look at entitlement under the intestacy rules, with the spousal entitlement split equally between all such legal partners.  This will not be suitable for everyone, and by putting proper thought and planning in place, you will be able to make arrangements which suit your own unique circumstances.

Where cohabitees are concerned, the Court will consider factors such as the length of cohabitation, the age of the partner and any non-monetary contributions made such as looking after the home and caring responsibilities.

If you do not want the Courts to decide, then take some advice and put a will in place to ensure that everyone is fairly provided for.

So, as is the case for all wills, but particularly where your relationship structure might be considered by to be ‘non-traditional’, it is important to speak to a professional who can take time to understand your unique circumstances to ensure that your loved ones are treated fairly upon your death.