This is just a very quick post in response to a rather nowty stream of tweets I received over the weekend which elevated me to the status of ‘Church of England spokesperson’ and also said that I thought siblings could engage in a Civil Partnerships, neither of which are true.
I do understand the frustration of siblings and other relatives who, as carers often eschew marriage (or a civil partnership for that matter) in order to look after their relatives. Of course it seems unfair that the household they have been contributing to then leaves them liable for inheritance tax, and there was much talk and fighting and even a vote on whether or not siblings aught to be included in the Civil Partnership Act. It was called ‘discriminatory’ that they could not.
But let’s just follow that logic through and see where the real seed of discrimination lies?
‘Why shouldn’t I have the same rights as gay people?’ says the singleton paying inheritance tax on her sister’s house.
Rights which were generated from the cry, ‘Why don’t we have the same rights as straight couples?’
So let’s have a look at those actual rights, shall we?
A spouse automatically inherits their spouses’ half of the communal property UNLESS the spouse has bequeathed it to somebody else. That’s right, you could find that your spouse has bequeathed the other half of your house to your children who – let’s say, emigrate, are in debt, are made redundant, are mean as a mustard on chilli with extra jalapenos sandwich, or indeed, they’ve left it to your mother-in-law who’s been after ousting you since she pebble-dashed you with rice at the wedding.
I’ve just bought (and sold) a property with a friend and you can choose whether or not that property is passed to them on taking out the mortgage, or whether it is none of their business and you leave the proceeds to your own family (Tenancy in Common).
Life has changed, people need to share like they didn’t in the past mortgages and salaries being what they are, and the law allows for it in a number of ways, whether or not you are blood related. Therefore, I could have given said friend the same rights over my property as a spouse/civil partner would have and I could do the same with a sibling. We could buy a house together as a ’Joint Tenants‘ in order that the property is passed to the other on death (financial obligations notwithstanding). So the arguing about Civil Partnerships is a moot point, becuase if you were contributing to the house i.e. had a joint mortgage, you would have the above options open to you.
Civil Partnerships came at a time when same-sex couple did not have those options open to them, and blood was thicker than the law when it came to the disposal of their homes. Parents who had long rejected their children on the grounds of their sexuality could inherit their son or daughter’s home as official next of kin and leaving their child’s partner both homeless and penniless, never mind distraught. Of course there needed to be legal recourse, for when two people join their households and finances, they aught to be the ones recouping the time, energy and resources they’ve poured into it, not have it snatched away. This situation has now been rectified and ratified. It is not discriminatory, it is the end of a particular act of discrimination.
If we perceive that another discimination (against singletons) exists, it is for us to fight it together as adults, not to childishly say, well if I can’t have an ice-cream you’re not having one either’ as we dash somebody elses’ hopes to the floor.
Maybe if we shifted that focus, we might see that inheritance tax affects everybody, including the children of the deceased, and support instead the idea that inheritance tax encourages marriage and civil partnerships consequently building a more stable society in which are tax bill is reduced as mental health, longevity and physical health are raised whilst all that drains our public purse is reduced the more happy couples society supports.
And perhaps siblings who are that close that they’ve been living together for twelve years might have a chat about wills and house-ownership before 11:59. If it were my house and my sister, I know I would.
(Funnily enough, sibling ownership was a hot-topic some years BCE…) The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. They approached the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly, and said, “Our father died in the desert. He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the Lord, but he died for his own sin and left no sons. Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”
So Moses brought their case before the Lord and the Lord said to him, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and turn their father’s inheritance over to them.
“Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, turn his inheritance over to his daughter. If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to be a legal requirement for the Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.’” Numbers 27:1-11