Are you aware of your LGBT partner pension rights?
Written by Philip Howell-Williams on September 22, 2014.
In many countries homosexual people are finally making great strides in achieving relationship equality. However, as we move into an age where [same-sex marriage is being legalised]((http://www.pewforum.org/2013/12/19/gay-marriage-around-the-world-2013/) in some parts of the world, it is astounding, if unsurprising, that financial legislation has not kept up.
It is equally important for members of the LGBT community to prepare financially for old age by contributing to a pension scheme or retirement savings plan as it is for their heterosexual counterparts. However same-sex couples do not always have the same rights as straight couples with regard to the transferability of a pension to a partner. LGBT couples continue to fight for their rights and to challenge the law to gain equality.
Some progress is being made. In the UK the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 dictates that survivors' pensions for same-sex couples must be provided on the same basis as for opposite sex spouses. The European Court of Justice backs the same approach, having declared that a decision by a Hamburg court ruling that married people should have better pension entitlements than those in civil partnerships contravenes EU laws on discrimination.
Exclusions still apply however. For example in the UK, the Equality Act 2010 states that contributions made prior to 2005 are not transferable within same-sex partnerships. This exclusion has been highlighted by the case of Walker v Innospec. An employment tribunal ruled in favour of Walker, a gay man who argued that his pension scheme did not provide the same benefits to his civil partner as it would to a spouse. However the ruling has been challenged on the grounds of the exclusion clause in the Equality Act 2010 because Mr Walker’s contributions were made before 2005. The case has gone to appeal and a ruling is expected later this year. The outcome could have major repercussions for both the LGBT community and pension providers.
While it is encouraging that progress is being made in some parts of the world, it is not the case everywhere. Unfortunately, here in Hong Kong the law on LGBT issues is not nearly so clear cut. If you are part of an LGBT couple it is important that you find out exactly where you stand and that means reading the small print to be aware of what your pension provides for you and your partner. The devil really is in the detail and a failure to check this can leave the surviving partner vulnerable in the event of a death. Of course, the same applies if you have life insurance and jointly owned assets such as property.
The reason many people ignore the detail is that they are put off and confused by the legal jargon. This is where a professional financial advisor comes in. A good one will be able to explain in detail the terms and conditions of your documentation and answer any questions you have, as well as explaining the options available to you. The conversations involved are sensitive and require the sharing of personal and private information which you perhaps would not normally divulge to a stranger. This is why it is important to find someone who is sympathetic to your needs and understands the particular issues affecting the LGBT community.
As a gay man myself I am fully aware of all the issues involved. If you would like to find out more please get in touch today.