Have you thought about what effect this might have on your will or power of attorney? That is, if you have a will and power of attorney which, hopefully, you do!

Many people would like to enjoy the experience of committing to their chosen person in a way that provides legal security. The previous Queensland parliament introduced the Civil Partnership Act 2011 (Qld) in February 2012 for this purpose.

Under that legislation, couples were afforded legal status very similar to that afforded couples who marry under the Commonwealth Marriage Act. This legislative innovation was welcomed by couples who could not or who did not want to marry, but who wanted a formal commitment and a ceremony akin to the marriage ceremony.

The change in the law also involved changes to the Queensland Succession Act (Qld) 1981 which is the primary source of law for inheritance in Queensland.

The law was changed again in Queensland following the recent State elections. The Civil Partnership Act has now been replaced with the Relationships Act. Now, instead of becoming a “civil partner”, a person becomes a “registered partner”, in a “registered relationship”, rather than a “civil partnership”.

But the effect of both pieces of legislation has, for succession law purposes, remained basically the same.

Both pieces of legislation have the effect of affording couples registering their union with similar status as marriage. What this means for succession lawyers, is that the Succession Act 1981 (Qld) has been changed yet again, in form rather than substance.

The general effect of the changed law is that the commencement or ending of a registered relationship has significant effect on wills and the law of succession, in the same way as marriage or divorce affects wills, and powers of attorney too.

Wills are revoked by a person entering into a registered relationship. This means that if a person has a valid will, the later registration of a relationship makes the will null and void.

However, gifts in a will to a person to whom the person commences a registered relationship are not revoked by the testator entering into a civil partnership, though gifts to other persons are revoked.

It sounds a bit complicated, doesn’t it? And it is!

The effect of marriage and divorce, the commencement or ending of a registered relationship, and the commencement or ending of de facto relationships have significant effect on your succession planning, regardless of your intentions. They have effect because of the operation of the law which, as you can see, changes at the whim of parliament.

If you are entering into or ending a relationship, whether you are married or single, in a registered relationship, or are simply living together, you should be aware that your relationship status can affect your succession planning in unintended ways, and obtain advice about those consequences.