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Unmarried woman wins legal fight!

View profile for Gregory John
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The topic of marriage can often be a difficult subject for couples in today's society. If you are in a long term relationship you could often be met with a steady stream of "When's?" and "Why not's?" from both friends and family.

When dealing with clients, I find myself asking similar questions. If you are unmarried but in a relationship, regardless of how long you have been together, the nature of my advice, especially for tax and estate planning, will be significantly different from that I would provide a married couple.

Despite being in the 21st Century, the law does not appear to have caught up with society and still significantly favours married over unmarried couples. However, there may be light on the horizon. 

The Court of Appeal have recently allowed a challenge against a High Court ruling in favour of a Ms Jakki Smith in her legal battle to earn better rights for unmarried people.

Ms Smith had been with her partner for 16 years when he sadly died due to an infection being missed by medical professionals. Under English Law, a spouse or civil partner would have been entitled to bereavement damages, however, this did not include cohabitees and therefore denied Ms Smith access to this payment.   

Ms Smith argued that this denial was in breach of her Human Rights and her legal team argued that the payment should be awarded to couples who have been together for two years or more.  The decision in favour of Ms Smith has been described as a "historic decision" and "long overdue".

Although it is hoped that the outcome of this case may encourage the government to consider wider changes, these are not yet upon us, and being unmarried when you die could have unwanted consequences leaving those you care about the most facing a hefty tax bill or no provision whatsoever.

If you are unmarried cohabitees, I would strongly recommend you seek advice in respect of what will happen to your estate when you die so as to avoid unwanted complications, legal fees and upset to those whom you love the most.

The Private Client team at Gepp and Sons would be very happy to assist you plan for the future. If you have any questions or wish to book an appointment to discuss your Will, please ring 01245 228127.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.