Inheritance rights of cohabiting couples


If you are at least 18 years old and of sound mind, you may make a will. If you later get married or enter a civil partnership, that will is automatically cancelled. However, if you do not get married, or enter a civil partnership, and enter into cohabitation (i.e., move in with a partner), it has no effect on your pre-existing will.


If you are married or in a civil partnership, the Succession Act 1965 gives your surviving spouse/civil partner a legal right to a share of your estate when you die, no matter what you have said or specified in your will. This does not apply to cohabiting couples. In other words, if you are in a cohabiting relationship, there is nothing to prevent you from leaving some or all of your property to your partner in your will.

However, if you are or have been married or in a civil partnership, your spouse/civil partner may be legally entitled to a share of your estate even though you are now separated from him/her.

If you are in a cohabiting relationship and you die without a will, your partner has no right to any share of the estate no matter how long you have been together, apart from what was held jointly. Many people are not aware of this, so it is very important to know your rights in this situation.

Under the redress scheme for cohabiting couples a qualified cohabitant may apply for provision to be made from the estate of a deceased cohabitant. Where the partner dies in an existing relationship, it is not necessary to show financial dependence.

The natural children of parents who are born inside or outside marriage and adopted children have the same inheritance rights.

In the case of a cohabiting couple where the surviving partner inherits the family home, the surviving partner may be liable for inheritance tax, unless the surviving partner qualifies for dwelling house tax exemption.

There is more information on inheritance rights in the document on what happens the deceased's estate.

Making a will can ensure that proper arrangements are made for your dependants and that your property is distributed in the way you wish after you die, subject to certain rights of spouses/civil partners and children. A solicitor can help you draft a will or you can draft one yourself.


Contact information for solicitors firms throughout Ireland is available on the Law Society website.

FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent, voluntary organisation that operates a network of legal advice clinics throughout the country. These clinics are confidential, free of charge and open to all. Contact your nearest Citizens Information Centre for information on FLAC services in your area. FLAC also runs an information and referral line during office hours for basic legal information.

FLAC has produced a series of basic leaflets on various areas of law which may be useful. These are available from your local Citizens Information Centre and from FLAC or can be downloaded from the FLAC website.

Free Legal Advice Centre

85/86 Upper Dorset Street
Dublin 1
D01 P9Y3

Tel: +353 (0)1 874 5690
Locall: 1890 350 250
Page edited: 17 May 2016