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Predatory Marriage

What is the meaning of predatory marriage?

Predatory marriage is the practice of marrying a person exclusively to gain access to their assets and estate.

A predatory marriage occurs where a vulnerable person is induced to marry by someone seeking to inherit his or her estate or otherwise gain some financial advantage. A marriage by a person lacking capacity is not void from the outset, so can wreak havoc with his or her estate planning.

A ‘Predatory Marriage’ occurs when an individual, who is lacking capacity, is targeted by an unscrupulous person who wishes to use the individual’s vulnerability to their advantage by coercing the individual into a marriage with them purely for financial gain.

The Forced Marriage Act 2014 made it a criminal offence to marry a person who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage, whether they are pressured to or not. A marriage where a party did not properly consent because they did not have the necessary mental capacity to enter into the marriage is “voidable” and can be annulled.

What changes are proposed to prevent predatory marriage?

A campaign has been set up by the relatives of Joan Blass (a recent case of predatory marriage which has been widely reported in the press of a 91 year old suffering from vascular dementia whose marriage to a 68 year old man came to light 3 days after her death) with the aim of implementing changes to the law. 

The recommendations aim to:

  • Change the law so that a marriage does not automatically revoke a previous Will; 
  • Create an offence of predatory marriage;
  • Introduce the publication of Notices/Banns on the Internet;
  • Train Registrars to look for signs of insufficient mental capacity to marry;
  • Add a robust set of questions for Registrars to ask at marriage, with clear procedures for them to follow if correct answers are not given;
  • Ensure Registrars will stop a marriage ceremony if there are any doubts;
  • Add “The marriage was fraudulent” to the permitted reasons to annul a marriage after a party has died.