Love Prevails Over COVID Cancelled Wedding Plans


What is the difference between a wedding and a marriage? One is the official celebration of a life long commitment to a relationship and the other is the actual relationship. After a wedding, each party has legally recognised rights. Prior to the wedding, the law does not recognise a relationship. In reality, for most couples these days, the relationship does not change significantly after the wedding. They have the same level of commitment to one another etc. The difference is legal recognition.


The COVID pandemic means many couples have had to postpone or abandon their wedding plans. Of course, this does not mean they do not wish to get married. Nor are they less committed to their relationship. However, until they are married the law confers no benefit on either party in the event of the death of one of them.


What is the Legal Position Before Marriage?


Under English Law, where there is no Will in place and there are no children of the deceased 100% of the assets are transferred to the deceased’s parents. Where those are not living then to their brothers and sisters. Good friends and those to whom you are betrothed are not beneficiaries. Under UAE law the distribution of assets is different but there is still no provision for friends or those to whom the deceased was engaged.


What is the Legal Position After Marriage?


After a marriage, where no Will is in place and no children, English law provides that the spouse all of the deceased’s estate (worldly assets). Where both spouses are from the UK, the assets are also received free of death duties. This is a significant difference in the position before marriage.


What is the Solution?


Luckily, there is a solution. English law provides those from England and Wales with testamentary freedom. Testamentary freedom is the right to gift assets to whomever you wish, including those to whom you are engaged or just a good friend. Wills prepared under English law for those from England and Wales can be used in most jurisdictions for most assets. Although you should check with the person preparing the Will for you.


Under English law, marriage cancels any Will you have prepared in the past unless you prepare the Will in anticipation of the marriage. Therefore the Will needs to be prepared with an additional clause covering this eventuality,


I recently met with Kerrie Low a registered celebrant at The Bird & The Bees. Kerrie provides couples who do not want a religious service with a secular alternative celebration of their relationship.  Many weddings are being postponed due to COVID restrictions.


This means people who would have been protected by law due to their wedding are not recognised as being important enough in a person’s life to have a legal claim under their estate.  We discussed how unfair the current position is to those who would have been married if it were not for the virus. Especially, if one of the couple passes away prematurely.


For more information on how to protect your relationship in the COVID environment, please contact me.