It has been reported throughout today’s press that Jennifer Aniston has said she “feels hitched, so why have a wedding?” (Metro 29th July 2013).
I can think of several reasons why getting married is more than just a piece of paper and love doesn’t feature in any of them:
1. In the UK, you’re either married or you’re not. So you’re either in a contract of marriage with all the benefits and liabilities that go with it or you’ve no contract and you are, at first glance, entitled to nothing if you Separate. This may appeal to the financially secure person in the relationship and as a divorce lawyer, when I’m asked by a client at the end of their Divorce how they can protect their finances in the future, my advice is simple, “don’t get married.”
2. If you aren’t married, you’re not able to claim spousal maintenance, you have no claim on assets in the sole name of your partner but nor are you liable for any debt in the sole name of your partner.
3. If you aren’t married and your partner dies, you will not inherit anything unless they have made specific provision for you in their will.
4. If you aren’t married and your partner dies, their pension dies with them and you will not be entitled to any spousal pension because you aren’t a spouse. You can sometimes nominate an unmarried partner to receive an income from your pension upon your death, but as with a Will, you need to make specific provision for it and ensure that the pension trustees allow you to nominate an unmarried partner to receive an income from your pension upon your death.
5. Tax breaks for unmarried couples are few and far between. As an unmarried couple you will not be entitled to any Capital Gains Tax exemptions nor will you be entitled to any inheritance tax relief.
6. If you transfer real property between you and your unmarried partner, you will be liable to pay stamp duty, whereas if you’re married you would be exempt.
If you are committed not to get married, but want to protect yourselves in the event of your partner’s death, then you must make a will, you must have a declaration of trust in respect of any property you or your partner own and you must nominate your partner to receive any benefits from your pension upon your death.
So getting married isn’t all about love and commitment after all.
By Family Law Solicitor Sarah Thompson