Jersey's new civil partnership law will not replace the need
for same sex couples to prepare wills to safeguard their
inheritance. The law, which was approved by the States on 12 July,
creates a new legal relationship: that of a 'civil
partner', which carries mutual rights and obligations to
one's civil partner akin to marriage. This new relationship can
only be created or ended by certain formalities in the same way as
marriage. The law provides for such a relationship only between two
people of the same sex, and therefore cannot be used by a
heterosexual couple who do not wish to marry.
Apart from the creation, and therefore recognition, of this new
relationship between a couple of the same sex the next most
significant effect in the context of family law is that the new law
provides for financial obligations between the civil partners both
during and after the end of the relationship and for the support of
any children of the family. Careful advice should be sought in
relation to the ownership of property, financial agreements entered
into in contemplation of or after entering into the partnership and
in relation to making wills. An equally important part of the new
law is the protection of any children of the family, defined as
"any ...child...who has been treated by both of those parties
as a child of their family". Article 44 of the new law
provides the court with powers identical to those on divorce
relating to providing for dependent children.
The new law will also give the same inheritance rights to a
civil partner to share in his or her deceased's partner's
estate as currently exists between spouses. Although the law is
undoubtedly a positive step towards recognising the rights of same
sex couples, the benefits of preparing a will remain the same and
there is a danger that same sex couples may now believe that the
civil partnership now means that this is not necessary. Just as is
the case for married couples, the rights of both individuals need
the protection that a will offers them and makes explicit all
intentions. A will is still a necessity to ensure that an
individual's estate is distributed in accordance with their
wishes; to address what happens to each partner's estate in
circumstances where both die in quick succession as the result of
an accident or other unforeseen circumstance; to appoint an
executor and, most importantly, to enable matters to be dealt with
as quickly and efficiently as possible after death.
Jersey's inheritance law had not previously provided an
automatic right to either unmarried partners or same sex couples to
share in the estate of their partners, even those who have entered
into a civil partnership in another jurisdiction. However that will
change for same sex couples when the Civil Partnership (Jersey) Law
comes into force.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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