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Essex Digital Pride - LGBTQ+ friendly laws

View profile for Leah Woodnott
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As many of you will know, Essex Pride this year is being hosted online, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. During this unusual time, I think it is important to reflect on the laws that have come into force to provide equality to LGBTQ+ families.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, are but a few of the recent Acts that have come into play. With the legalisation of same sex marriages coming into force on 13 March 2014, it is no wonder that The Office of National Statistics has published that in 2019 there were 212,000 same sex families in the UK, which has increased by 40% since 2015!

These Acts are important to ensure that the laws are the same for opposite sexed couples and for same sexed couples. I work in the Wills, Trust and Probate team and so I can see first-hand how these laws have made an impact on estate administration.  

Currently, the law in England and Wales states that, if a person were to pass away without a valid will, then the rules of intestacy will apply. The rules of intestacy are a strict set of rules which sets out who will inherit your estate. The rules have been updated so that they are now exactly the same for same sexed marriages, civil partnerships and opposite sex marriages. 

The laws have been updated so that if you are married or in a civil partnership and do not have any children, then your partner will inherit your entire estate. If you pass away leaving children, then your partner would inherit any assets up to the value of £270,000, all personal possessions and half of your residuary estate, with your children inheriting the other half of your residuary estate in equal shares. 

Contrastingly, in England and Wales “common law marriages” do not exist. A common law marriage is usually where couples cohabit but they are not married or in a civil partnership.  If a person in this type of relationship passes away without a valid will, then the survivor would not automatically inherit their estate. 

It is therefore important to consider making a will if you do not want the rules of intestacy to prevail, and to review it regularly to ensure that it still reflects your wishes. 

If you are considering making a will or updating an existing will then please contact our specialist Wills Team. I am working from home and can take your instructions via the telephone, video call or by email. I can be contacted on 01206 217609 and leah.woodnott@birkettlong.co.uk.

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