December 5 marks the first anniversary of the Civil Partnership Bill but despite a year having passed since the introduction of this legislation, the Institute of Professional Willwriters is warning that many same sex couples have no idea of the impact their union has on their inheritance arrangements.

The Institute of Professional Willwriters is so concerned about this situation that it has written to the National Statistician and Registrar General for England and Wales to highlight the lack of knowledge existing in relation to the impact of marriage, re-marriage and Civil Partnership on an existing will.

This follows cases that it has handled where the partners were totally unaware their new status as Civil Partners revoked previous inheritance plans.

The IPW’s stance is that those entering a union of any kind should be made aware, during the required Civil Partnership or registration process, of the impact this will have on their will.

In one case handled by the IPW, two civil partners were aghast to discover that their wills had been revoked as a result of their Civil Partnership. Both would have died without a valid will, in the eyes of the law, resulting in financial catastrophe.

Where a will has been made before a marriage or Civil Partnership, the participants become previous will is revoked, unless it has a specific wording to say that it will not be revoked by such a situation. In this way, the will can say that there is an anticipation of a future marriage or Civil Partnership to a particular person.

If one party has made a will allowing their partner to inherit everything, but does not have such wording in their will, they need to amend the will prior to entering into a legal union, or write a new one as a matter of urgency afterwards.

If a will is not drawn up, or has been revoked by a marriage or Civil Partnership, the law dictates what will happen.

Their partner would only be left with the deceased¹s personal chattels, the first £200,000 of the estate and half of the residue over that amount, assuming the deceased had no children. The other half of the residue would pass to parents, if still alive, or to siblings and then other relatives.

If the deceased had children, then the partner would only be left with the deceased’s personal chattels, the first £125,000 of the estate and the income (but not capital) on half of the residue over that amount.

The remainder would be held in trust for the children until they reach 18. The capital that generates the income for the surviving spouse, or Civil Partner, passes to the children when the surviving spouse or Civil Partner has died.

Paul Sharpe, Chairman of the IPW explains, “The introduction of Civil Partnerships has compounded an existing problem about this issue. Even where people do realise that marriage affects inheritance, they do not feel this exists in relation to Civil Partnerships.

“Whilst the 2005 legislation was intended to give same sex couples more security, in the case of inheritance it has often removed much of the financial security that existed previously.”

Nina Parker, one of the founders of Lancashire¹s first gay affirming Church, Liberty Church Blackpool, praised the IPW’s proposal, “Many of our worshippers were unaware of the impact a Civil Partnership has on inheritance. We support the IPW¹s efforts in lobbying the National Statistician and Registrar General for England and Wales so that registrars can potentially pass on information, at the time a Civil Partnership is registered.”