Civil Partnership Law - UK Legal Info.

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Civil Partnership Law, The Act takes Effect on the 5th December 2005

Civil Partnerships and their effect on Wills. 

On the 5th December 2005 The Civil Partnership Act comes into force. This means that same sex couples can now have a Civil Partnership Agreement formalised in a Registry Office and this partnership can also be dissolved in the same way as a marriage (although the dissolution process has not yet been finalised and is therefore not yet in place).

Tax legislation has been brought into line with this legislation and the words “formation of civil partnership”

is now synonymous with the word “married”. From the appointed date civil partnerships will be treated in exactly the same way as married couples for all tax purposes. This means that civil partnerships will be recognised under the intestacy rules and for the purposes of inheritance tax assets passing from one partner to another will be free of tax. Civil Partners will have the same capital gains tax treatment as married couples. The disadvantage to this will be that civil partners will only be allowed to have one principal private residence between them rather than one each before becoming subject to tax. 

In England and Wales it will be important for those entering into Civil Partnership Agreements to remember that entering into the agreement will revoke any earlier Will unless it was made in deliberate contemplation of the agreement. This should not be overlooked because many same sex couples have already made Wills in favour of one another and if they enter into a Civil Partnership Agreement they will find that those Wills are automatically revoked.

 

What is civil partnership?

Civil Partnership is a new legal relationship, which can be formed by two people of the same sex. It gives same sex couples the ability to obtain legal recognition for their relationship for the first time. Same-sex couples who form a civil partnership will have parity of treatment with those opposite-sex couples who enter into a civil marriage, in a wide range of legal matters.

Some of the rights and responsibilities civil partners will have include:

          i)  A duty to provide reasonable maintenance for your civil partner and any children of the family;  
          ii)  Equitable treatment for the purposes of assessment for child support, life assurance, employment and pension
               benefits and inheritance of a tenancy agreement;
          ii)  Recognition under succession rules;
         iv)  Protection from domestic violence; and
         v)   Recognition for immigration and nationality purposes.

When will my partner and I be able to form a civil partnership?

The Civil Partnership Act received Royal Assent on 18 November 2004. This means that it has now passed all its stages in Parliament and has become law.  

To view the text of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 click the link below.

http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2004/20040033.htm

The legislation will be brought into operation on 5 December 2005

Why can't we form a civil partnership now?

Bringing the Act into operation involves significant changes in many areas, for example pension schemes, court rules, immigration rules, the registration service and the benefits agency. There is a considerable amount of secondary legislation to be put before both the UK and Scottish Parliaments. In some cases the introduction of these changes will need to be preceded by a statutory consultation period. In others, training of personnel or testing of new systems and procedures will be necessary. It takes time to make these changes, all of which are critical to the successful implementation of civil partnership.

How does civil partnership differ from marriage?

Civil Partnership is a completely new legal status, exclusively for same-sex couples, distinct from marriage. The Government has sought to give civil partners parity of treatment with spouses, as far as is possible, via the rights and responsibilities that flow from forming a civil partnership. There are however a small number of differences between civil partnership and marriage, for example, a civil partnership is formed when the second civil partner signs the civil partnership document, a civil marriage is formed when the couple exchange spoken words. Opposite-sex couples can opt for religious or civil marriage as they choose, whereas formation of a civil partnership would be an exclusively civil procedure. 

What are the eligibility requirements for forming a civil partnership?

In order to form a civil partnership in the UK, the couple must:

            i)          both be of the same sex

            ii)         not already be in a civil partnership or marriage

            iii)         be 16 years of age or older; and

            iv)        not be within the prohibited degrees of relationship. 

In Scotland individuals aged 16 or over will be able to register their partnership without the need for parental consent. This is what applies to opposite-sex couples in Scotland seeking legal recognition for their relationship through marriage. In England and Wales and Northern Ireland, individuals who are aged 16 and 17 will have to obtain the written consent of their parent(s) or legal guardian(s) before forming a civil partnership.

The prohibited degrees of relationship may be found in Schedule 10 of the Civil Partnership Act for Scotland, Schedule 1 for England and Wales and Schedule 12 for Northern Ireland. They list the people who, due to their relationship by consanguinity or affinity (broadly speaking, blood relationships), are absolutely prohibited from forming a civil partnership with each other, or who a prohibited from forming a civil partnership with each other unless certain conditions are met.

Will I have equal survivor pension rights as a civil partner?

Civil partners will be able to accrue survivor pensions in public service schemes and contracted-out pension schemes from 1988.

What about tax?

As a consequence of the introduction of civil partnership, civil partners will be treated in the same way as spouses for tax purposes. These changes will be dealt with in the next available Finance Bill and will have effect from the date that Civil Partnership Act is commenced.

About The Author

Martin Goldstraw is the principal of a legal services company and specialises in Wills and Estate Planning. You are advised to seek proper legal advice before writing a Will. All laws cited in this article are based upon English Law. martin@goldstraw.org.uk

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