Record Year For Civil Partnerships Is A Cause For Celebration

An older couple, walking along the beach

It’s been a record year for civil partnerships, which is a cause for celebration. This was the first year that opposite-sex couples could formalise their relationship and gain vital rights, without having to buy into the institution of marriage. Almost 8,000 couples took advantage within the first year.

What The Stats Say

The ONS released data on Civil Partnerships and here are the key takeaways:

  • In 2020, the first full year of opposite-sex civil partnerships, there were 7,556 in England and Wales
  • 48% had been married or in a civil partnership before
  • 29% of those entering an opposite-sex civil partnership were 65 or over. The average age was 58.9 for men and 56.3 for women
  • The most recent year we have comparable marriage statistics for is 2018. In that year, there were 234,795 marriages in England and Wales
  • There were 785 civil partnerships formed between same-sex couples in 2020. The average age was lower (49.8 for men and 50.1 for women)
  • Opposite-sex civil partnerships became legal on 31 December 2019. There were 167 on the first day

What Does This Tell Us?

There’s certainly been a thirst for civil partnerships, amongst the older generation in particular.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst, at Hargreaves Lansdown, says: “There are all sorts of reasons why couples may prefer civil partnership to marriage. Some don’t like the idea of the institution of marriage. While others may not fancy the traditional level of fuss and expense. Given that more than half of them have tied the knot before, they might have decided that they’ve had enough marriages for one lifetime. Or maybe it simply isn’t for them.

“Some of these couples may well have managed without formalising their relationship for years. But they realise, as they get older, that civil partnership could leave the surviving partner tens of thousands of pounds better off when one of them passes away. It’s certainly popular among older people: the average man entering an opposite sex civil partnership was almost 60, and almost a third were aged 65 and over.

Currently, unmarried couples (who aren’t in civil partnerships) are treated as financially inferior. They’re exposed to an enormous number of risks if they split up or if their partner dies. Meanwhile, those who have formalised things benefit from a variety of special rules. This includes the ability to transfer savings or capital gains to the partner who pays the least tax, and the right to claim the marriage allowance.”

Vital Rights Of Civil Partners

Civil partnership gives you the same rights as married couples. If you have children together, you’ll automatically get parental responsibility. If you have children from other relationships, you each have the right to apply for parental responsibility for your partner’s children. There are also tax benefits, so you can pass assets between you without triggering a tax charge. This means that assets can be held to take advantage of tax allowances and the balance can be held by the lower taxpayer.

You can take advantage of the marriage allowance too. So if one of you is a non-taxpayer and the other a basic rate taxpayer, the non-taxpayer can give £1,260 of their personal allowance to their partner, cutting their tax bill by £252 a year.

In The Event Of Death

You can leave as many of your assets as you want to your partner, without them potentially being subject to inheritance tax. You’ll also pass any of your nil rate band that you don’t use and potentially your residence nil rate band too. In some cases, this means that after their death, a partner can pass on £1 million of assets tax free.

If you die without a will, your civil partner receives all of your estate. If you have children, your partner receives the first £270,000 of the estate and all personal possessions. However, if your partner children, they receive half of the rest. Without civil partnership, where there is no will, your partner receives nothing.

Workplace pension schemes also have to offer civil partners the same rights as married people. This means they have the same death benefits.

In The Case Of A Split

In the event of a split, any children you have between you has a right to be supported by both of you. However, it’s only with marriage, or civil partnership, that you and your partner have a legal responsibility to support one another financially.

If you split and are in rented property, the civil partnership means you both have the right to stay. This is regardless of whose name is on the agreement. Likewise, if your partner dies you have the right to stay.

If you own property, both partners have the right to stay. This is regardless of who owns the property, until a court orders otherwise. The non-owner will need to register their ‘home rights’ to protect their interests.

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