The legislation, basically, gives people in same sex relationships equal rights and obligations to those who are married or have a defacto-relationship.
Many people don’t realise that if they remarry or enter into a de facto relationship after their partner dies or they are divorced, that any Wills or Enduring Powers of Attorney they may have previously put in place are automatically revoked.
This can be particularly difficult for families to deal with when elderly parents remarry or enter into another relationship.
The existing Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney that they may have had prepared in favour of their children from their first marriage may then, not be valid.
There are also issues that can arise from these marriages or relationships when it comes to the surviving partner’s rights in relation to the estate of the deceased spouse or partner.
Previously, same sex couples could not bring a claim against the estate of their deceased partner because they were not recognised as a “spouse” in the legislation.
The new Civil Partnerships Act remedies this situation and provides them with that right to bring a claim against the estate.
Conversely, couples who separate for whatever reason need to be aware that their Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney in favour of their spouse or partner continue to apply, despite the fact that they may well have separated permanently with the relationship irretrievably broken down.
Until such time as you are divorced or the end of the relationship has been formally recognised as ended by a court, the Will and Enduring Power of Attorney that you signed in favour of your now ex-spouse or partner continues to operate as usual.
The main lesson out of all of this is to ensure that if there is any definitive event in your family or domestic circumstances; you should always review your Will and Enduring Power of Attorney.
Any death, divorce, marriage or de facto relationship should trigger these reviews.