The world has had its share of troubles this year and it doesn’t look likely to change. With this strange new normal the vast majority of weddings have been postponed but there has been a spike in one type of wedding, the so-called ‘deathbed’ wedding.

Deathbed’ marriage

Sweet and bitter, romantically heartbreaking, these last minute marriages can provide comfort to all involved and are a powerful and often last grand gesture.But they do have a significant practical application relating to the financial options open to the widowed partner according to our divorce solicitors in Guildford.

Based on data released by the Passport Office, there was an 11% increase in urgent marriage applications in 2018 well before any pandemics began, creating interesting contracts for legal practitioners to draw up. In 2021, these types of marriages have somewhat skyrocketed.

How do you conduct a deathbed marriage?

A Registrar General’s Licence allows a marriage or civil partnership to be entered into anywhere and at any time. There are strict rules and for the license processed in time, it is fast tracked. An attending doctor must provide a statement, usually in a formal letter declaring the person is seriously ill and not expected to recover and cannot be safely moved to a location reserved for marriages. This letter will also show that the patient is mentally competent and understands that they are getting married. Both statements have to be supported with medical evidence that will not be scrutinised at the time for the sake of brevity but may be examined later if required. The licensees are usually granted on the same day as the application and our Divorce Solicitors in Guildford can help in organizing the application and evidence in order to further speed up the processing period.

What are the legal consequences of a death-bed marriage

From a legal perspective, there are no distinguishing features between a ‘normal’ marriage/ civil union or a ‘death-bed’ one. Both having the same effects on inheritance, pensions and kin-ship.

For many deathbed unions, this is the main point as without one, there would be no legal protection offered to the remaining partner of a long term relationship, even in cases when they have decades of cohabitation and have had children together.

The lack of inheritance tax and the probate of spouse inheritance can amount to a very significant amount of money.

When do death-bed marriages fail?

The legal success of late marriage is to simplify inheritance but this does not mean that spousal inheritance can not be challenged. If a family member feels that they have been left without being ‘reasonably financially provided for,’ they have a right to dispute the inheritance in court.

This was established in the Inheritance Act of 1975; these cases usually focus on the mental competency of the deceased at the time of the marriage and the likelihood of coercion.

There are perfectly valid personal and religious reasons for applying for an urgent marriage/union and our Divorce Solicitors in Guildford are happy to assist, but we understand in most situations it is the failing of legal protection of ‘common law couples’ that prompts such unions. Until that is corrected, we are happy to advise and help you in difficult situations and stressful times.