I told someone an untruth yesterday.
In the UK, if you die, your estate has to pay Death Duties (Inheritance Tax) on what you leave behind over £325,000… unless you leave it to your spouse, civil partner, a charity or (rather oddly) a community amateur sports club.
So, basically, your sons, daughters and other heirs have to pay tax on what they inherit in your will.
If you are Lord Bloggs and own some flash country house, hundreds of acres and an estate worth several million pounds, the Inheritance Tax can be crippling. Tax is assessed at 40% of the net value of the estate. The ‘estate’ is property, land, cash, investments, anything of real value you leave behind.
But there is a way round this tax. Not just for Lord Bloggs but for any man who leaves an estate worth over £325,000 (and, with current house prices, that is not uncommon).
If you are a man and your wife is dead, you can marry your son.
A mother cannot marry her son. It is illegal.
A father cannot marry his daughter. It is illegal.
Incest is illegal.
But there is no law against a father marrying his son.
It is one of those quirks in UK law. Much like the quirk that used to mean male homosexuality was illegal but lesbianism was not illegal.
It was never illegal for a father to marry his son because the thought of it was inconceivable and male homosexuality was illegal.
So, now male-male marriages are legal, there is a quirky loophole in the law – that a father can marry his son provided the marriage is never consummated (because incest is still illegal).
That means that if, after the death of his wife, a man marries his son then… when the man dies, the son is his spouse and is not liable for death duties/inheritance tax.
Unfortunately, I found out today that is all a load of utter bollocks.
I told an untruth. Mea culpa.
Apparently a 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act 1949 specifically prohibits a father marrying his son – acccording to the Daily Telegraph, who should know about such things.
A great pity.
I rather enjoyed the British quirkiness of it all.
Perhaps we should repeal the 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act.
I was always comforted by the thought that there is still an Oliver Cromwell law on the statute books which made it illegal for anyone in England to celebrate Christmas or to eat mince pies on Christmas Day.
But apparently it is an urban myth – Charles II repealed almost all Cromwell’s new laws.
There is another urban myth that it is legal for a man to urinate on the rear wheel of his vehicle if his right hand is on the vehicle. And that pregnant women can legally urinate in any public place, including into a policeman’s helmet.
Alas, the BBC – who know about such things – say these are just that… urban myths.
Except – and this is true – the Law Commission does say that a police officer may make an exception for an expectant mother.