The Passing Of A Best Friend Who Married To Avoid Inheritance Tax

Michael O’Sullivan and Matt Murphy, close friends for over 30 years, married in 2017 in a bid to avoid the inheritance tax that would be payable on Matt’s home.

Several years prior to their marriage, Matt had made the decision that he wanted his home in Stoneybatter, North Dublin, to be inherited by Michael when he passed away.

Unfortunately, after celebrating two years of marriage on the 22nd December 2019, within weeks Matt passed away on the 13th January, after a period of illness.

The couple had been working at when the recession hit and Michael lost his apartment to the bank. With failing health and sight, Matt asked his friend to move in with him, having lived alone for 50 years.

Describing the marriage as a ‘business arrangement’, former minister of justice and attorney general Michael McDowell told The Irish Times that their marriage was ‘perfectly lawful’.

The friend’s story has generated a lot of interest across the world, mainly positive, with a film maker Donal Moloney talking about a feature-length documentary.

President Michael D Higgins even congratulated the couple after they ran into him during the Stoneybatter Festival:

“He turned round and he put his arms around Matt. He gave him a hug and said ‘Congratulations’. It made my day.” said Matt.

When asked whether the marriage had been workings, Matt had previously stated;

“We would recommend it. People, men or women, they get lonely on their own. Most people, unless they’re very strange.”

When two people marry, any gifts to a spouse are exempt from inheritance tax, meaning a marriage can definitely be one of convenience. There is no requirement for sexual relations for a marriage to be legal, as discussed in the matter of X (A Child).

Sir Munby had stated:

“There can be no question of the marriage being a sham. In short, the marriage is a marriage. The fact that it is platonic, and without a sexual component, is, as a matter of long-established law, neither here nor there and in truth no concern of the judges or of the state … A sexual relationship is not necessary for there to be a valid marriage.”

With the lack of protection for those who cohabitate, regardless of whether they are within a sexual relationship, could this be an option for those wanting to take advantage of the legal protection and inheritance benefits; especially those who know they are becoming frail and wish to pass on what they own to friends, without the threat of a large tax bill?

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