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You might be married in accordance with your faith,

but is your’s and your spouse’s Will legally recognised in the UK?

It is not generally understood in the UK that only certain marriages and civil partnerships are acceptable for Inheritance Tax Relief. Spouses and partners who have a UK recognised marriage and who have written a valid UK will, can qualify for complete exemption from UK Inheritance Tax. This is called spousal exemption. For everyone else the Nil Rate Band applies.

Some religious marriages, such as the Islamic Sharia ‘Nikah’, Rastafarian weddings and pagan ceremonies for example, might not be recognised by the UK courts.

To be considered legally married and to be able to qualify for spousal exemption, the couple need to have entered into a civil marriage (the legal marriage) in addition to a religious marriage. If a couple are only religiously married, then they are not legally married in the eyes of UK law.

There are exceptions however. For example, for a Muslim couple to enjoy the financial security and the other benefits bestowed by the completion of a civil marriage, they must have either married under Sharia law in a country where this type of marriage is recognised by law, or they must get their civil marriage in addition to their Islamic marriage.

Because it can be confusing and complex, it is advised that every couple who live in the UK and are married under Sharia law, check whether their marriage is valid and recognised by UK law. If you are not legally married, you may find yourself in a difficult situation if you were to get divorced or if one partner passes away.

If a person dies without a valid Will, their assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. However, if a Muslim couple wishes to have their assets distributed according to Islamic law, they will need to create a Will that reflects this. It is important for Muslim couples in the UK to seek legal advice when creating their Will to ensure that it is in compliance with both UK laws and Islamic law. This can help to ensure that their assets are distributed according to their wishes and that their loved ones are provided for after their death.

Want to find out more? I can help, and point you in the right direction. Tel: +44 7831 379562 (UK) or +34 622 374 738 (Spain), or email

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