In England and Wales there is no such thing as a “common law spouse”. It is a common misconception that if you live with someone for a period of time a cohabitee gains legal rights when it comes to inheritance. Whilst there may be some legal protection for dependents this is by no means certain. You would have to mount a legal challenge and which would lead to potential expense, lost time, dispute and upset at an already very stressful time.
The default position is that an unmarried cohabitee will not be entitled to anything the deceased owns when they die. The rules of intestacy would apply. This could mean that a distant relative, an estranged spouse or even the Crown Estate could be the beneficiary and inherits everything.
To avoid this unmarried couples should make a pair of wills.
Unmarried couples do not enjoy the same status for inheritance tax as married couples. Because of this if the joint estate is worth more than the inheritance tax nil-rate band we strongly suggest speaking with a traditional solicitor to draft a tax planning will.