Living Together? – then something for your ‘to do’ list
17 February 2016 by Stuart Williams
Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld have been together since 2010 and have an eight month old child. They are in a committed relationship but do not wish to enter into marriage as they believe this to be a “patriarchal institution” weighed down with “history and social expectations”.
Their preference is to enter into a civil partnership which they believe is a “modern, social institution conferring almost identical legal rights and responsibilities as marriage”. At present the law – under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 – only allows for same sex couples to form civil partnerships. Charles and Rebecca recently took the matter to judicial review as part of their campaign to allow heterosexual couples to form civil partnerships. They argued that the current law was incompatible with equality law, was discriminatory and went against their right to a family life. They were met with no success and are taking the matter to appeal. They remain “deeply concerned about the precarious legal and financial position” they are left in following this decision. This is especially true if either of them were to die without making a Will.
The law states that if someone dies without making a Will then the intestacy rules will be applied. These were set down in statute in 1925 and, although they have recently been updated, do not reflect the changes in people’s family arrangements which have taken place over the last ninety years. This has resulted in a situation where couples like Charles and Rebecca (or indeed Jane and Jill, or John and Steve), who live together, are not covered by the rules. This would mean that if one of them were to die without making a Will, then the surviving partner would receive nothing from their deceased partner’s estate. They would then have to make a claim for provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. If they had been married or in a civil partnership then the surviving spouse would receive the first £250,000 of their estate and half of the remainder, with the remaining half to go to any children. Where there are no children then the surviving spouse would take the whole estate. The differences in treatment could not be more stark.
The court case highlights once again the importance of making a Will in all circumstances but especially if you are in a relationship with someone but are not married or in a civil partnership. Making a Will is a relatively inexpensive exercise and would avoid the need to make a claim for provision under the 1975 Act which could prove costly. You would also be avoiding the emotional turmoil which is likely to come with having to make such a claim.
In short, if you are in the same position as Charles and Rebecca (whether in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship), you should put making a Will at the top of your “to do” list.
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