Legal consequences of marriage and civil partnership in England and Wales

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This is a list of legal consequences of forming a marriage or civil partnership in England and Wales.

  • For the purposes of capital gains tax, a married couple/civil partners can claim private residence relief for only one dwelling, even if they live apart.[1]
  • Married/civil partners can possess joint property without needing to agree a contract.
  • In case of accident or illness of one spouse, the other is next of kin.
  • A spouse of a British citizen is entitled to a residence permit if the spouse is from the EU. If not, to apply for residence the British spouse must meet a minimum income requirement of at least £18,600 a year for the past six months. This rises to £22,400 for families with a child, and a further £2,400 for each further child.
  • A spouse may not be compelled by a criminal court to disclose private communications with their spouse.
  • When a married couple/civil partners separate, the courts have wide powers to divide their property and may set aside prenuptial agreements.
  • Wills are revoked on marriage or formation of a civil partnership (unless made in contemplation of marriage/formation of a civil partnership). Similarly, a divorced former spouse cannot benefit from a will made before divorce/dissolution.
  • No inheritance tax is payable on an estate inherited by a surviving spouse/civil partner, if they are UK domiciled.[2]
  • The surviving spouse inherits part or all of the estate of a spouse who dies intestate. The exact rules for intestacy are different in the countries of the UK. In England and Wales, if there are children, the survivor inherits the first £125,000 plus personal possessions plus a life interest in half the remainder; if there are no children but the deceased has surviving parents or siblings, the surviving spouse inherits the first £200,000 plus personal possessions plus half the remainder; otherwise the survivor inherits the whole estate.
  • The surviving spouse is paid a proportion of their deceased spouse's pension.
  • Women who become spouses to male peers and knights usually receive titles which last for the length of a marriage. Men who are married to women who are made dames, as well as civil partners of ennobled spouses, do not receive titles.


  1. ^ "Capital gains tax tips". Retrieved 28 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "Transferring an unused Inheritance Tax threshold". HM Revenue and Customs. Retrieved 28 January 2013. 

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