Cohabiters could be left out in the cold

  • More than one third (38 per cent) of unmarried Brits living with their partner aren’t aware of their rights if their loved one were to pass away
  • Over half (52 per cent) of married Brits have a will, but just 26 per cent of cohabiting couples have a legal document outlining what would happen to their estate
  • Millions of cohabiters mistakenly believe they would automatically receive their partner’s money, property and pension were they to pass away

New research1 from Direct Line Life Insurance reveals more than a third (38 per cent) of cohabiting couples don’t know what their legal rights would be in the tragic event their partner passes away.

One in ten (11 per cent) cohabiting Brits, believe that if they own a home together, they would inherit their partner’s share of the property in the event of their death. However, the law states that surviving partners may only inherit the shared property if their partner expresses this intention in a will. If not, their share of the property would be inherited by their next of kin. Despite this, less than a third (26 per cent) of co-habiting partners have a will, compared to 52 per cent of married couples, meaning their loved ones could be left in a vulnerable financial position in the event of their death. 

With over one in six (15 per cent) cohabiting couples not leaving any instructions on what should happen to their estate if they pass away, it could leave families dealing with a confusing and complicated probate process at an already incredibly distressing time.   

One in twenty unmarried, cohabiting couples mistakenly believe that if their partner was to pass away, they would have immediate access to their money and possessions. In addition, one in twenty of those living with their partner assume they would have immediate access to their pension were they to die. 

The research also reveals that less than a third (29 per cent) of cohabiting couples have life insurance which could leave their surviving partner and family in a difficult financial position, struggling to manage funeral costs, mortgage/rental payments and other everyday household expenditure.

Millions of Brits haven’t chosen who would make decisions about their health, property or financial affairs were they to be tragically incapacitated through accident or illness. In fact, just six per cent of Brits have a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), with a nominated person to help them make decisions or to make decisions on their behalf in the event they are unable to.

Table one: Financial protections by marital status  

Financial protections

All Brits

Married living together




41 per cent

52 per cent

26 per cent

22 per cent

Life insurance

30 per cent

39 per cent

29 per cent

12 per cent

I have neither a will nor a living trust

27 per cent

20 per cent

34 per cent

37 per cent

Not told anyone what I want to happen to my estate if I die

15 per cent

11 per cent

15 per cent

22 per cent

Set up lasting power of attorney

6 per cent

8 per cent

3 per cent

3 per cent

Living trust

3 per cent

3 per cent

3 per cent

1 per cent

Source:  Direct Line Life Insurance

Jane Morgan, Business Manager of Direct Line Life Insurance commented: “As our society changes, marriage is further down the agenda for many couples. It is very common for partners to live together for extended periods of time before getting married, if they marry at all. However, the law is still somewhat behind the times in regards to cohabiting partners and worryingly, millions of Brits are under the false impression that they have the same legal and financial security as married couples.”

“Our research aims to highlight the lack of awareness around this issue and will hopefully encourage people to think about putting plans in place in case the worst should happen.

Direct Line Life Insurance offers an affordable way for families to help look after loved ones financially if someone passes away, paying out a lump sum, to help deal with every day money concerns such as household bills, childcare costs and mortgage payments.”

For more information on the offering, please visit:

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Notes to Editors

1 Research conducted by Opinium among a nationally representative sample of 2,006 adults between 9 to 12 January 2018

For further information please contact:

Claire Jarrett

Media Relations Executive

Direct Line Group

Tel: 01651 832 411

Email: [email protected]

Katie Ormrod

Citigate Dewe Rogerson

Tel: 0207 282 1023

Email: [email protected]

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel, pet and life insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line life insurance policies are underwritten by Legal & General, registered office: One Coleman Street, London EC2R 5AA. Legal & General Assurance Society Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority under number 117659. You can check the FCA register at or call the FCA on 0800 111 6768. Legal & General will introduce customers who select the Funeral Benefit Option to Dignity Funeral Services, who are members of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0800 145 5522 or visiting