Melanie Messenger

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Civil partnership available for opposite-sex couples

Wealth Preservation / 08 January 2020

Until December 2019, civil partnership was only available to same-sex couples.  Marriage was the only choice for opposite-sex couples who wanted their relationship to be legally recognised.  On 2 December 2019 The Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) Regulations 2019 came into force.  This now enables opposite-sex partners to form a civil partnership, but the changes only apply to England and Wales.

It also allows for certain opposite-sex relationships formed in other countries, which are not marriages, to be recognised as civil partnerships in England and Wales.  Details of which countries this applies to are set out in the regulations but includes for example France, Isle of Man and some parts of Spain, Australia and USA.

There is a 28-day notice period and the first ceremonies took place on 31 December 2019.

Inheritance tax

Opposite-sex couples who enter into a civil partnership will benefit from the unlimited inheritance tax exemption for assets passing between them on death, subject to the domicile rules.  They will also have the same rights as same-sex civil partners and spouses currently if they die without making a Will.  If a civil partner’s estate is valued less than the current inheritance tax allowance of £325,000, the unused allowance amount can be transferred to the surviving partner.  This mirrors the existing provisions for married couples and same-sex civil partners.

Other changes

Other points to note are as follows:

1. Parenthood – opposite-sex parents in civil partnerships are generally given the same rights as opposite-sex married parents.

2. Gender recognition – individuals can apply for gender recognition certificates to change their sex and gender in law.

3. Conversion rights – currently only same-sex civil partners can convert their civil partnership to a marriage.  The new regulations do not extend this to opposite-sex couples.  It is intended that the ability to convert from a civil partnership to a marriage will eventually be removed entirely.

How can Greenwoods GRM help?

Our team can provide you with further information and advice in this developing area. Contact +44 (0)203 691 2080 and ask to speak to a member of our Private Client team.


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This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email:

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