Same-sex marriage and inheritance; Wills, inheritance, and LGBTQIA+

As the world becomes more accepting, and people are feeling more comfortable being themselves, family dynamics aren't what they used to be. Let's have a look at what that means from a legal aspect.

Let’s shine a light on LGBTQIA+ relationships, because why not? Pride month might be over, but that’s no reason not to stop talking about LGBTQIA+ relationships. As the world becomes more and more accepting, and people are feeling more comfortable being themselves, family dynamics aren’t what they used to be. They’re changing for the better.

What does that mean for like, same-sex marriage and inheritance and stuff? ‘Cos it wasn’t until 2005 that same-sex couples were even recognised by law (with civil partnerships). It wasn’t until 2014 that same-sex couples could marry. Society might be changing, but is the law keeping up?

When it comes to inheritance and Wills, yep – LGBTQIA+ couples have all the same rights and regulations as heterosexual couples. While that’s good to know, there’s still some stuff that LGBTQIA+ couples need to keep in mind when thinking about the future. We’ll go through them in this article.

What’s the difference between a marriage and a civil partnership?

When you hear the word marriage, what’s the first thing you think of? Grand old church? Flowing white dress? Massive cake? Me too. But, technically, a marriage is just a formal union between two people, formed by vows. Sorry to stomp all over the fairy-tale, like, but all the confetti and cake and dancing is extra. It’s just for show.

A civil partnership is similar, but while a marriage is formed by the vows, a civil partnership is formed by the signing of a civil marriage certificate. It doesn’t have all the religious connotations, either, obviously. You can still have a big white dress and massive cake though, if you want. It’s your day!

A same-sex couple on their wedding day, holding up little cut-outs of rainbow hearts. One is wearing a white dress, the other a suit jacket.

It’s easy to think of civil partnerships as basically just marriage for LGBTQIA+ relationships. In fact, when I was researching this article, I found that a lot of places still refer to it as ‘gay marriage’. That’s not the case, though. It’s 2022!

Heterosexual couples don’t have to marry – they can form civil partnerships, and LGBTQIA+ couples don’t have to be civil partners, they can marry. From a legal standpoint, there’s basically no difference. A civil partnership has pretty much all the same rules and regulations as a marriage does.

(If you’re interested in how they do slightly differ, there’s a document explaining it here.)

LGBTQIA+ relationships and cohabitation

Here’s a fabulous fact for you – people in LGBTQIA+ relationships are statistically much more likely to cohabit with their partner. LGBTQIA+ couples are more likely to live together without being in a marriage or civil partnership.

Alright, it’s not fabulous, but it is a fact, and an important one at that. ‘Cos if a couple do cohabit, it can put them in a bit of a vulnerable position. If you don’t have a Will and you aren’t in a legally-recognised relationship with your partner, they won’t be entitled to inherit anything from you. Think about that. They could end up homeless.

That’s why it’s really important to make sure that you’ve got a Will. And, not to be too bleak, but you never know what’s around the corner. If you haven’t got a Will, get one now. Why put it off any longer? It’s not worth the risk of leaving it too late.

A gay couple, each with an arm around the other's shoulders, holding up a rainbow flag and smiling happily

LGBTQIA+ relationships and children

It’s especially important to think about Wills when children are involved. Familial relationships can be a lot more complicated for LGBTQIA+ couples. From a legal point of view, the mother is the person who carries, and gives birth to, the child. The second parent is usually considered to be the biological father. Obviously, though, in LGBTQIA+ couples, this isn’t always the case.

If you or your partner have a child with someone of the opposite sex

So, the mother is the person who carries the child. The biological father is considered to be the second parent (even if they aren’t involved in the child’s life). An LGBTQIA+ partner who isn’t biologically related to the child wouldn’t be considered a parent, and the child wouldn’t have any inheritance rights to their assets.

Unless the partner had a carefully drafted Will. Then they’d be able to leave whatever they wanted to the child (and to anyone else, for that matter).

If you’ve had a child by IVF

The mother is whoever’s carried the child – if they’re married or in a civil partnership at the time of the birth, then their spouse / civil partner would be considered to be the second parent (and the child will be entitled to inherit from them).

If you aren’t married or in a civil partnership, the partner can still agree to be the second parent – they’d just need to sign some consent forms. If the partner doesn’t sign the forms and you aren’t in a legally-recognised relationship, then the child wouldn’t be entitled to inherit from the partner.

If you’ve had a child by a surrogate

If one of the LGBTQIA+ couple is a biological parent to the child, then the couple can apply for a court order (known as a parental order) to become the legal parents – they don’t even need to be married or in a civil partnership.

If neither parent is a biological parent to the child, then they’d need to adopt in order to considered the parents.

A lesbian couple looking out a window, with a rainbow flag draped over both of their shoulders, thinking about same-sex marriage and inheritance.

If you’ve adopted a child

Both parents named on the adoption certificate are considered the child’s parents, whether they’re married / in a civil partnership or not. If either were to pop their clogs without a Will, the child would, according to the rules of intestacy, be entitled to inherit from them.

There’re so many different circumstances, and each one’s got different ramifications for children and inheritance. It can all get a bit confusing, can’t it? But here’s a simple solution to all of it. Get a Will. Stop putting it off. It’ll give you complete peace of mind that no matter what, your nearest and dearest are protected. You don’t have to worry about anything.

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Declan Ramsden

Declan is an Apprentice Content Creator at Vital Documents, which means he’s learning the ins and outs of blog writing! He studied English Literature for 4 years before joining the company. Outside of work, he enjoys listening to retro music and reading classic novels – particularly Charles Dickens!

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