Death and taxes! They say they come to us all.
What we can only hope for is that we pay as little tax as possible throughout life and that in death we go quietly and simply slip away. For many couples in Northern Ireland death comes when least expected. Three score years and ten is only an aspiration for many.
Throughout our adult lives we are urged to make our Wills, prepare for death, ensure our families are looked after and many of us readily do this.
At Donaldson McConnell & Co Ltd we prepare hundreds of reflective spouse and partner Wills every year. The husband leaves to his wife, then on her death the wife passes on the assets to the children of the family or indeed to extended relatives. Likewise a co-habitee leaves her entire estate to her lifelong partner and then to their children upon his death.
Many co-habiting couples however mistakenly believe that they have the same financial and legal rights as married couples and that the inheritance legislation will look after their partner. This is simply not true. Unmarried couples do not benefit in the same way as married couples do under the laws of intestacy.
Your life-long partner with whom you have lived for decades is not your next of kin!
Marriage is in decline and civil partnerships are only showing a 2% increase in last year’s figures. Thousands of couples therefore must be in this vulnerable position.
At Donaldson McConnell & Co Ltd more recently we have seen a sharp rise in the phenomenon of death bed weddings. This is often done to provide the best protection for the person left behind. Ideally of course this would be a wonderfully joyful day spent with friends and family celebrating the history of love shared by the couple. In reality it is often a last minute bed side ceremony in a bedroom or hospital room, with only a few witnesses present, in circumstances which for most of us are just too awful to imagine.
We have always in this firm advocated change in relation to the law surrounding the issues of cohabitees. The government unfortunately seems slow to react in relation to this and whilst charity after charity calls for changes to the laws in relation to co-habiting couples the unfortunate reality is that this seems to be falling upon deaf ears.
So what can you do?
Well obviously the romantic in us would always advocate marriage as the solution to such a situation but for many that is just not possible and for many it is not something that they wish or want to do. In the light of the lack of change by the government however in relation to this area we do advocate that people take the earliest advice possible in relation to their own situation. If you live with your partner and you are not in a civil partnership or marriage with them then please take legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
Death, like taxes, comes to us all.