Amendment to the Jersey Wills & Successions Law: Equality for all - better late than never!
07 June 2013
Under Jersey law there is currently an inequality between the rights of a widow on the testate death of her husband and the rights of a widower on the testate death of his wife, to a life enjoyment of their deceased spouse's immovable estate.
A report by Professor Meryl Thomas ("Professor Thomas") was commissioned by the Jersey Community Relations Trust in 2009 in order to assess whether the Wills & Successions (Jersey) Law 1993 (as amended) was compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights and that report was analysed by the Legal Advisory Panel ("LAP") to assess compliance with The Human Rights (Jersey) Law 2000. Whilst Professor Thomas concluded that:
"a difference in treatment between persons in similar situations, based on [gender],...does not necessarily make it discriminatory...The question is whether there is a reasonable justification or a legitimate aim in according different rights to the widow and widower on the death of the spouse..."
the LAP was of the opinion that the differences had to be justified in accordance with the values and assumptions of the 21st Century, but concluded that they were not so and that legislative change was required in order to introduce equality between surviving spouses regarding their right of life enjoyment of immovable property.
The Wills & Successions (Amendment No.2) (Jersey) Law 201- removes the remaining inequality between genders on death and, further, ensures that the same conditions applying to qualify for the right to a life enjoyment of immovable property are not only the same for both spouses, but also for civil partners.