No-one plans to fail, so thinking about what might happen if your marriage or civil partnership ends before it’s even begun might feel like you’re tempting fate. However, pre-nuptial agreements (pre-nups) are increasingly common.
Broadly speaking, by entering into a pre-nup before a marriage or civil partnership ceremony, you document how your finances and assets will be dealt with in the event of a divorce (or dissolution of the civil partnership).
The specific terms will vary. It could, for example, include an agreement to exclude inherited assets; it might also state in which jurisdiction any divorce will proceed if one or both parties are foreign nationals.
Why should I consider a pre-nup?
Pre-nups aren’t just for the ultra-wealthy; if you own property or hold investments you might benefit.
Certainly if one person has substantially more assets than their intended, they should consider a pre-nup; as should couples who have a large disparity in income.
And if you’ve been married before, a pre-nup could be used to protect the inheritance rights of any children from your previous relationships.
Is it legal?
Technically, pre-nups are not currently legally enforceable in England and Wales. However, in the event of a divorce or dissolution, the courts are now far more willing to enforce pre-nups as long as certain safeguards have been complied with. Indeed a recent court case stated that a pre-nup should be followed where possible.
Circumstances do change, of course, and it’s wise to review the terms periodically in case they should be varied.
By introducing the idea of a pre-nup you do risk taking some of the shine off planning your marriage. It’s clearly a sensitive matter, and we can help you broach the subject with your loved one, who will need to take independent legal advice. We can advise on the issues to cover, and help to negotiate the terms.
For more information on pre-nuptial agreements and to start a conversation on how we can help you please contact Mark Rennie, Partner, Family.