In a marriage or civil partnership, you automatically inherit your partner’s estate under the intestacy rules if your partner had no children and a defined share of the estate if there are children or other issue. This follows even if you are separated.
If you are divorced or your civil partnership has ended, you cannot inherit the estate.
If you are an unmarried couple and you are not in a civil partnership, you cannot inherit your partner’s estate under the intestacy rules but you will inherit any property within their estate held by you under a joint tenancy.
There are two ways to hold property together – “Joint Tenants” and “Tenants in common”
If you own the property as “Joint Tenants” the property automatically passes at death to the surviving partner. However, if you own the property as “Tenants in Common” you receive only your share of the property while your partner’s share will be inherited by his or her relatives under the intestacy rules.
Another way of inheriting a part of your partner’s estate is where you are able to prove that your partner had promised to give you the property and that you relied upon that promise. Such a claim is possible under propriety estoppel.
It should be remembered that you can also make a claim on your partner’s estate if you were financially dependent on them when they were alive and that they did not make adequate financial provision for you.