Persons in common law unions are now more secure after the National Assembly passed the Civil Law Amendments Bill.
The Bill was passed early on Tuesday during the 31st Sitting of the 12th Parliament.
It amends Section 5(1)(b) and provides that a widow or widower may inherit the assets of the deceased if there are no children, and all debts have been fulfilled. The Bill recognises that once a single man and woman have been sharing a common law union for a stipulated time period, the law recognises that they are entitled to legal benefits.
Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC, said the passage of the Civil Law Amendments Bill is a revolutionary step. During his presentation in the Assembly, he pointed out that the law was inherited from the United Kingdom, which has since changed their laws.
“This amendment seeks to remove any type of discrimination, unshackle that spouse who is left in a union after the death of the other spouse, but has to share the matrimonial property acquired during that period with persons outside of that union.
“We feel that to keep that in our law books, not only perpetuates injustice, but it continues a culture of discrimination which offends against the rule of law, and offends against our Constitution.”
Minister Nandlall said persons who want to ensure their assets are passed to particular individuals, are free to make a will. However, if a person dies without a will, the amendment makes provisions for that.
“In the event that you do not make a will, we believe that equity and justice would favour a spouse who has been living with you for the duration of that cohabitation should benefit.”
He explained that while the Bill may not appear significant, it would impact the lives of many ordinary Guyanese.
The Civil Law Amendments Bill 2021 was also supported by Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond.
In her presentation, she said passing legislation such as this one ensures that Guyana’s laws reflect contemporary societal norms and will benefit thousands of citizens.