Inheritance tax benefits enjoyed by married couples could soon be extended to co-habitués under proposals drawn up by the Law Commission.

For a childless unmarried couple in a relationship for between two and five years the bereaved partner should inherit half the estate with the rest going to parents or siblings, says Professor Elizabeth Cooke in her consultation paper

Current inheritance tax guidelines say a surviving partner in a marriage can inherit their deceased spouse's entire estate tax-free, but unmarried couples have no automatic rights to a partner's estate.

The paper Intestacy and Family Provision Claims on Death argues change in the law is needed to keep up with social changes, in particular the introduction of civil partnerships, the increased acceptance of cohabitation, and the prevalence of divorce and of subsequent marriages, civil partnerships and cohabitations.

It says: "These changes mean that law which most people found to be an appropriate response, 100 or even 20 years ago, to the problems of intestacy and the dilemmas that arise over family provision, may today be unacceptable."

Up to two thirds of the population have not made a will according to Finding the will: a report on will writing behaviour in England and Wales by the National Consumer Council in 2007.

IFAonline| 02 Nov 2009 | 11:00

Author: Laura Miller

Categories: Inheritance Tax