Same-Sex Relationships and Wills and Estate Administration

The recognition and rights of same-sex couples in England and Wales have come a long way, thanks to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. These laws give same-sex couples similar rights to opposite-sex couples. However, there are still unique considerations when it comes to Wills and Estate Administration.

Intestacy Rules and Same-Sex Couples

Intestacy occurs when someone dies without a valid Will. In such cases, a surviving spouse or civil partner is prioritised for inheritance. This means that a same-sex spouse or civil partner will inherit just like an opposite-sex spouse. However, same-sex partners who live together but are not married or in a civil partnership do not have automatic inheritance rights. This underscores the importance of having a valid Will. Even if you are married it is worth considering a Will as under the Intestacy, a spouse is only entitled to the first £322,000 and the rest is put into a statutory trust.

Importance of a Will

For same-sex couples, having a valid Will is crucial to ensure their wishes are honoured after death. A Will allows you to:

  • Appoint executors to manage your estate.
  • Specify beneficiaries, including non-relatives.
  • Provide for dependents and minor children.
  • Avoid disputes among relatives.

Without a Will, default intestacy rules apply, which may not reflect your wishes, especially for unmarried or unregistered partners. A poorly drafted Will can also lead to unintended consequences.

Estate Administration for Same-Sex Couples

Estate administration involves collecting and distributing the deceased’s assets. Executors (named in the Will) or administrators (appointed under intestacy rules) handle this process. Key considerations include:

  • Property Ownership: Jointly owned property usually passes automatically to the surviving owner. Clarifying ownership terms (joint tenancy or tenancy in common) can prevent issues.
  • Inheritance Tax: Spouses and civil partners are exempt from inheritance tax, which helps in future planning. Cohabiting partners do not get this exemption.
  • Pension and Life Insurance: Ensure nominated beneficiaries for pensions and life insurance policies are up-to-date to reflect current relationships and intentions.

Disputes and Challenges

Despite legal advancements, same-sex couples may face challenges such as:

  • Family Disputes: Relatives might contest the Will, alleging undue influence or lack of capacity. Cohabiting partners who do not inherit under intestacy rules might also challenge for their share.
  • Foreign Marriages/Civil Partnerships: Marriages or civil partnerships conducted abroad must be recognised under English law for inheritance rights.

Legal Advice

Given the complexities, seeking legal advice is recommended for same-sex couples. Legal professionals can provide tailored guidance, ensuring Wills are correctly drafted and estate plans are comprehensive.


Same-sex couples in England and Wales have many of the same legal rights as opposite-sex couples regarding inheritance and estate administration. However, specific issues require careful planning and legal oversight. By understanding their rights and taking proactive steps, same-sex couples can secure their futures and ensure their wishes are honoured.

If you need advice on Wills and Estate Administration Telford, contact our friendly and experienced Wills and Probate team on 01952 403000, on our contact page or by email.