Know your rights: Inheritance rights of cohabiting couples

My partner and I have two young children together. We live together but we are not married and haven’t got around to making our wills. If something happened to one of us, would we automatically be entitled to each other’s estate?

It is important for you and your partner to discuss the matter of inheritance sooner rather than later. Because you are not married, neither of you is automatically entitled to inherit anything from the other. If your partner dies without a will, you have no right to any share of their estate no matter how long you have been together. So, for example, if you live with your partner but they own the house, you could be left in very difficult circumstances if they were to die unexpectedly.

If you own items jointly, these automatically pass to you and are not part of your partner’s estate. However, you might need to pay Capital Acquisitions Tax if the inheritance is above a certain threshold or value.  

If your partner has not made a will or has not provided for you, you may be able to apply to the courts to provide for you from your partner’s estate. This is known as the redress scheme for cohabiting couples. If you get redress by a court under this scheme, you may be exempt from paying Capital Acquisition Tax.

However, making a will can ensure that proper arrangements are made for you and your dependants and that any property is distributed in the way you both wish, subject to certain rights of spouses and children. Tax planning advice can help reduce or minimise the amount of tax your partner or family must pay. A solicitor can help you draft a will or you can draft one yourself.

You can read more about inheritance rights of cohabiting couples on citizensinformation.ie


During COVID-19, you can find comprehensive integrated information online at citizensinformation.ie/covid19/ and you can get daily updates on what’s changed on Twitter at @citizensinfo.

You can also get information and advice from:

  • The Citizens Information Phone Service: Call 0761 07 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am – 8pm
  • Our national call back service: Visit citizensinformation.ie/callback to request a phone call from an information officer

You can continue to contact your local centre by email or phone using the details in the Find a Centre page on citizensinformation.ie.