Will and succession considerations for same-sex couples
Understanding the Basics:
A will is a legal document that outlines how a person’s assets should be distributed following their death. Having a clear and comprehensive will is essential to ensure that your partner is properly taken care of and that your wishes are respected.
In many jurisdictions, if there is no will in place, the law dictates how assets are distributed. In the UK, this falls under the Intestacy Rules. This default arrangement may not align with your intentions, particularly when it comes to non-traditional family structures. Therefore, a will allows you to have control over who inherits your assets, including your partner.
Choosing the Right Executor:
An executor is the person responsible for carrying out the wishes outlined in your will. When selecting an executor, consider someone you trust implicitly, as this role involves handling financial matters and ensuring the proper distribution of assets. It is crucial to discuss this decision openly with your partner and ensure they are comfortable with your choice.
Guardianship for Children:
For couples with children, clearly stating your preferences for guardianship in your will is vital. This becomes especially important for same-sex couples, as legal recognition and protection for non-biological parents may vary. Clearly defining your wishes can prevent potential disputes and ensure the well-being of your children.
Protecting Your Partner:
In many countries such as the UK, marriage equality has granted same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. However, it is essential to stay informed about local laws and regulations, as they can vary. With global mobility on the increase and many people moving abroad for work or other considerations, this may potentially affect one’s place of relocation. If marriage is not an option or does not provide sufficient protection, legal documents such as a will or power of attorney become even more critical.
Regularly Review and Update:
Life is dynamic, and circumstances change. It is advisable to review and update your will periodically, especially after significant life events like marriage, the birth of children, or the acquisition of new assets. Ensuring that your will reflects your current situation will help avoid complications going forward.
In the pursuit of love and happiness, legal matters should not be overlooked. Same-sex couples, like any other, can benefit greatly from thoughtful will and succession planning. By taking the time to understand and navigate these essential legal steps, you not only safeguard your partner’s future but also ensure that your wishes are respected and your legacy is preserved.
Sherrards is part of an international alliance of legal and accountancy firms, Alliott Global Alliance, represented in 96 countries and we can connect you with advisers if you are looking to move abroad.
To find out more, contact Nicole Marmor.
Why you should appoint Guardians
If your children are under the age of 18, have you thought about who should care for them if both parents passed away?
According to research, seven out of ten parents in the UK parents do not have a legal guardian in place to care for their children in the event of their deaths.
If both parents with parental responsibility die and a guardian is not appointed in the will, then the courts will decide who looks after your children. There is no guarantee the court will appoint the person or people you would have chosen as guardians, so it is important to make the decision yourself.
Whilst a mother automatically has parental responsibility, unless the father is married to the mother, listed on the birth certificate, or a has court order bestowing parental responsibility on him, he will not automatically become the legal guardian if the mother dies.
A common misconception is that any children will automatically go to grandparents. This is not the case. In the absence of a will appointing the grandmother/ grandfather as guardian, it may be necessary to apply to court to formalize this appointment. In some scenarios, there is even the risk that children are taken into care while guardianship is clarified.
Additionally, while godparents can have a crucial role in the lives and upbringing of children, they have no legal rights in respect of children in the event that their parents die. If you wish your children’s godparents to also be their legal guardians, you should ensure such an appointment is made by will.
Deciding who the guardian(s) should be is a difficult decision, so when appointing the guardian(s) here are some things to consider:
- Do your children know the guardians? If so, what is their relationship like?
- Do the guardians have the financial ability to raise your child if your estate cannot cover all the costs?
- Do the guardians have similar beliefs, values, and outlook in life as you do?
- Where do the guardians live?
- What are the guardians ages?
- Are the guardians likely make similar decisions to those that you would have made yourself for your children?
Also bear in mind, if each parent appoints different guardians the guardians must agree on decisions relating to the children, and if they can’t, it will be for the court to decide.
Finally, it is worth noting that your chosen guardians do not have to accept the appointment, so it is important that you discuss it with them, and they accept the responsibility, before appointing them. However, providing your guardians are willing to accept the guardianship, you’ll have peace of mind you have done as much as possible to protect your children, even if you’re no longer around.