Equality for LGBTQ+ families when someone passes away

As it is Pride Month, I thought what better time to reflect on the laws that have come into force to provide equality for LGBTQ+ families. In particular, I want to look at what happens when dealing with someone’s estate when they pass away. 

The Civil Partnership Act 2004, The Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 are a few of the most recent Acts that have come into force to ensure that the laws for same sexed couples are the same as opposite sexed couples. 

What are the laws in relation to inheriting an estate?

If a person passes away without a will in England and Wales then the rules of intestacy apply. These are a set of rules which state the order in which family members will inherit a deceased’s estate. The rules over the years have changed so that they are the same for opposite sexed couples and same sexed couples.

If the surviving partner was not married or in a civil partnership with the deceased, then they have no automatic right to inherit the deceased’s estate. This means that the rules do not allow for a lot of modern family relationships, such as couples who are cohabiting and who are not married or in a civil partnership.

If you are divorced or your civil partnership has ended, then you also cannot inherit under the rules of intestacy.

If the deceased was married or in a civil partnership, then the law states the survivor will inherit the first £270,000 and all of their personal possessions, no matter what the value. If the estate is worth over £270,000 and the deceased had children, then the children will inherit 50% of the balance in equal shares and the surviving partner will receive the remaining 50%.

How to ensure that a loved one inherits your estate

To avoid the rules of intestacy applying, you can instruct lawyers to draft your will to reflect your wishes about to whom you would like your estate to pass. Once you have completed the signing procedure, then your will becomes valid and your estate will be distributed in accordance with the terms of your will.

When a person makes a will setting out who they would like to inherit their estate, it is often the reality that some family members will take issue with the decisions made, especially in LGBTQ+ relationships, where the family is not on board with the relationship.

If someone were to challenge your will, then the lawyer’s notes when taking your initial instructions would be used as evidence of your wishes and how you came to the decision about leaving your estate to your loved ones. This in turn, will make it harder for someone to challenge your decision.

If you would like to make a will please contact one of our will specialists to ensure that your estate passes in accordance with your wishes.  I am based in our Colchester office and can be contacted on 01206 217609 or leah.woodnott@birkettlong.co.uk.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.