Written by Elizabeth Gibbison, Associate Solicitor, Tax, Trusts and Estates
We do a happy dance when our clients come to us to discuss succession planning. It can be overlooked, but it’s important to think about how your loved ones will be protected in the future. Among a raft of other wonderful quotes in his hit show ‘After Life’, Ricky Gervais said ‘nothing’s as good if we don’t share it’, and this is very true. Preparation for the inevitable at its core, is making sure you get to share as many of the things you enjoy and have built a life with, with those you love.
For almost everyone, not leaving a Will can be disastrous. For many of our clients in the LGBT+ community considering the passing on of wealth through a Will is imperative, as is structured planning around this. We help identify and bring into fruition your main objectives (your ‘why’) through identifying these at the outset so you can enjoy peace of mind everything is in order.
Most of the UK population still don’t have a Will. This is despite the fact that the rules in place, known as the ‘rules of intestacy’ (which dictate how a person’s estate devolves in the absence of one) is often wildly out of touch with what the person who died would want. For example, it’s usually a huge shock to long-term partners who aren’t married or in a civil partnership when their partner dies, that they do not stand to inherit as law would have it. It’s devastating to see that they’re left with nothing unless their loved one made a Will. However, all is not lost. Our Wills, Trusts and Estates Disputes team can assist a person who was living with their partner in the same household as if they were part of a married couple or were civil partners through making a ‘claim’ against their loved one’s estate. This is as long as they lived together for the two years before they died. A solicitor can then help in making an application for ‘reasonable financial provision’. As this route can be difficult, uncertain and costly however we always recommend a Will is made to avoid heartache.
For those in the LGBT+ community who have had children or are planning a family through surrogacy arrangements, adoption, sperm donors or other fertility treatments such as egg-sharing may need to look at the timing of when parties in the relationship are legally recognised as a parent. The definitions in the Wills must be carefully thought out and drafted to ensure they meet each family’s individual needs. Our family team can support with this and advice around navigating parenthood where parental responsibility needs to be considered in more depth.
Succession planning for LGBT+ Clients
In understanding how to approach succession planning for clients who are non-binary (i.e. for those who feel their gender cannot be defined within the margins of gender binary) we understand the importance of pronouns in a written document. It’s important to ensure, more widely, that correct terms are used in testamentary documents and in Lasting Powers of Attorney among other important documents that are produced. At Irwin Mitchell, we draw up documents to ensure any terminology doesn’t cause issue further down the line. This can be where terms like ‘my child’ should be used rather than ‘my son/ daughter’. Whilst non-binary is not legally recognised as a gender in the UK, there’s presently a movement encouraging consideration of this and creating awareness and respect for those who are non-binary.
As part of our work, there are other succession planning nuances which we navigate with respect and ease. Under the Gender Recognition Act, for those who have applied for a gender recognition certificate (which formally recognises their change of gender for legal purposes and has understandably been quite controversial), once obtained, they’re treated as their acquired gender. Ahead of that, we know how to ensure respect; for pronouns and beyond. With transgender clients in particular, documents should be drafted carefully and sufficiently clearly so as to ensure definitions are befitting.
Its LGBT History month and we’re celebrating the beautiful rainbow of gender and sexuality represented by all humans now and beyond and how far things have come since the Wolfenden Report. We’re hoping for continued advances to be made in this space imminently. Meantime we’re here to offer bespoke succession planning for all of our clients.
Our Tax, Trusts and Estates Team are here to help.