It’s nearly six months since mixed-sex couples in England and Wales have been able to choose to enter into a civil partnership rather than getting married. For those of you interested in the legal detail, the change stems from the Supreme Court ruling of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan in October 2018…
Civil partnerships were initially created in 2004 to give same-sex couples (who at the time could not marry) similar legal and financial protection as that offered by marriage. Same-sex marriage has, of course, since been legalised - by virtue of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 allowing same-sex couples to decide between marriage or entering into a civil partnership.
Many unmarried couples in long-standing relationships in England and Wales share the view that they do not wish to marry, often due to historical or religious connotations. A number of these same individuals believe that, over time, they will acquire similar rights and protections to married couples. Unfortunately there is simply no such thing as ‘common law marriage’; under current law, it is possible to live with someone for decades, and have children together, but to have no financial claim if the relationship breaks down.
This change in the law, back in April, addressed the imbalance that allowed same-sex couples to choose between marriage and entering into a civil partnership, but not mixed-sex couples. The benefits attached to entering into a civil partnership provide greater protection to mixed-sex couples and their families who want to formalise their relationship, but don’t want to get married. Similarly to marriage, a civil partnership attracts many tax exemptions including Inheritance Tax reliefs. On death, the surviving partner may have the right to inherit their partner’s estate; in effect, this may mean that the surviving partner doesn’t have to worry about being able to afford to stay in the family home. Alternatively, if the relationship breaks downs, the couple may have a guaranteed right to ownership of each other’s property.
For further information about entering into a civil partnership, you can contact me, Sophie Smith, by phone on 01603 724665 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, our specialist Private Client department can advise, in plain English, about Inheritance Tax benefits.