Theresa May has taken a Bill through parliament that will mean all couples in England and Wales will soon be able to choose to enter into a civil partnership, instead of getting married. Currently, the law allows same-sex couples to either marry or enter into a civil partnership but mixed-sex couples can only choose to marry.
Civil partners benefit from a legally recognised relationship which includes many of the same rights as married couples with regards to inheritance, tax benefits, social security and pensions. However, they avoid the religious connotations of marriage and could be a popular option for those who believe that marriage is an age-old institution. The process of getting married varies from that of forming a civil partnership. Firstly, no ceremony is required like in a traditional marriage but both parties must sign a civil partnership document in front of a registrar and two witnesses. Secondly, vows do not need to be exchanged and the father is not required to ‘give away’ his daughter. In addition, marriage certificates only include the fathers’ names of the parties getting married but on a civil partnership certificate, both parents of the couple are named. Civil partners are also not allowed to refer to themselves as ‘husband’, ‘wife’ or ‘married’ but would instead call themselves ‘civil partners’.
Without a valid Will, your estate would be deemed intestate and your assets would be distributed following the rules of intestacy. In England and Wales, that would mean that your husband, wife or civil partner would keep all of your assets (including any property) up to the value of £250,000. In addition, they would be entitled to all of your personal possessions, no matter what their value. If the estate is worth more than £250,000, anything above this amount would be divided in half between the spouse or civil partner and the deceased’s surviving children. If a child had predeceased, their children would inherit in their place.
If you do have a valid Will, your estate will be administered in line with the wishes you’ve left in your Will and the Executor you’ve appointed is legally and financially responsible for the correct distribution of your estate. However, if you were one half of a cohabiting couple and you were to die without a Will, your partner would not receive any of your assets. Instead, your estate would be distributed as per the rules of intestacy. Where the deceased has no surviving relatives, the whole estate goes to the Crown. These intestacy rules apply to England and Wales and differ from those in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
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