The homosexual lover of the late comedy actor, Frankie Howerd, has entered into a civil partnership with the couple’s ‘son’ to avoid paying inheritance tax.
The news will confirm the warnings of one financial adviser who criticised the Civil Partnership legislation when it was being proposed in 2003, calling it “a tax dodgers’ charter”.
A pair of elderly sisters who have shared a home for many years, caring for each other, cannot make use of the law because they are related.
According to the Daily Mail, 82-year-old Dennis Heymer has entered a homosexual civil partnership with Chris Byrne, 42.
Mr Heymer was manager and boyfriend for nearly four decades to Frankie Howerd, famed for his roles in Carry On films.
The pair met Mr Byrne as a 17-year-old when they lived in London. Mr Byrne then followed them to their Somerset home, after they took the teenager under their wing.
He has lived on the estate since Mr Howerd’s death in 1992 where he now cares for the elderly Mr Heymer.
He says that he decided to marry the man who called him his ‘adopted son’ (although they are not officially related) so he could legally inherit the £800,000 four-bedroom cottage.
“The civil ceremony protects us legally with the property that Frank left Dennis and with my inheritance,” Mr Byrne is quoted as saying.
“It’s not a romantic relationship, but it’s a caring one. I look after Dennis because he’s very frail now.”
In April 2008 two elderly sisters lost their legal battle to enjoy the same tax benefits as same-sex couples who register for civil partnerships.
The result meant that either Joyce Burden or her sister Sybil could be hit with a crippling inheritance tax bill if one of them dies, forcing their home to be sold to pay the bill.
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 allows same-sex couples to register as civil partners, exempting them from inheritance tax. However, the Act prevents partnerships from being registered between close relatives.
Before the law was passed it was argued by The Christian Institute and others that it ought to be extended to allow long-term cohabiting family members to register as civil partners, in the same way as same-sex couples. This would have made civil partnerships fairer and less like ‘gay marriage’.
The plan was supported by 84 per cent of the public, and an amendment to include it in the new law was accepted by the House of Lords, but defeated in the Commons.
When the Civil Partnership legislation was being proposed in 2003 financial adviser Mike Warburton said: “It would not make sense to allow any couple living together – whether gay or heterosexual – the same rights as married couples unless they also accept the obligations that go with that; otherwise, it will turn into a tax dodgers’ charter.”