Financial support from the Government on the death of one of the married parents has been in place for a long time but with no corresponding rights where one of an unmarried couple, who have children, die.
Regardless of views or thoughts on marriage, the lack of this payment impacts children who are already very vulnerable due to the loss of a parent. By focussing on the child's position having lost a cohabitant parent rather than on the legal marital status of their parents, the Government has made a significant step in enhancing support for the surviving cohabitant bereaved parent, which in turn will benefit children. This is a great step forward and will hopefully provide a measure of assistance at what is, without doubt, a tragic and challenging time for all involved.
However, despite the legal recognition of cohabitants in the context of state-provided bereavement benefit support, there are no corresponding changes to the intestacy rules meaning that cohabiting couples should continue to ensure they have effective Wills and appropriate arrangements under their Wills in place to provide for their cohabitant, children and others appropriately and avoid the need to bring a claim for provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
Choice, planning and intention remain key for cohabiting couples with a Will providing opportunities for bespoke provision arrangements to meet need, balance competing calls on resources and avoid a parent potentially needing to claim against the inheritance of their own child or children. Wills are key... but there is at least one less worry for cohabiting parents to face!
Previously, a surviving parent could only claim the financial support if they had been married or in a civil partnership at the time of their spouse or civil partner’s death. Under these plans, Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Support Payments will be extended to surviving cohabiting partners with children who were living with their partner at the time of death. It’s estimated that more than 22,000 families will now be able to claim this vital help, totalling an additional £320 million in support for bereaved children over the next five years