Most weeks the family team at Rudlings Wakelam talk to clients who would benefit from or who wish to have a nuptial agreement. With more people living together before they marry and with a rising number of blended families (people who have been in a relationship before and form a new household with or without children) the challenge is how do you protect assets that one person had before marriage, or acquires during a marriage, whilst being fair to the other person.
What sparks this conversation with a family solicitor? Often things like this:-
- I want to retain the pension I had before I married her;
- My parents helped me to buy the family home and then we married and he moved in;
- It is a family business/farm and I want to make sure that it remains in the family after we marry;
- I purchased the house but now we’re married I want to transfer it into our joint names so that it is our marital home – but I want the contribution I made to be fairly recognised if we separate.
Pre-nuptial agreements (those signed before marriage) and post-nuptial agreements (signed after marriage) are not legally binding in England and Wales so why bother? Because case law confirms that it would be unfair not to uphold an agreement provided it has been negotiated willingly and it is fair. The advantage of a nuptial agreement is that you gain certainty over the outcome and you can negotiate an agreement that works for your family. So, you can retain that deposit grandad gave to you when you bought your first house and then your husband moved in just before you married, or you can retain the pension you built up for the first 15 years of working before you married your wife.
Is there a downside? They can be tricky to negotiate and it isn’t the easiest topic to bring up during a romantic evening; but like many financial planning decisions, it is a sensible conversation. Both of you will have to provide financial disclosure to confirm the assets and liabilities you both own – otherwise, how can you negotiate a fair agreement? No one agreement is the same as another and every situation is different. The one thing that is always the same is the wish to plan and avoid contested divorce proceedings that take time, money and cause emotional stress.
When do you talk to a solicitor? Some people have a clear idea of how they want to structure their agreement and others need help to negotiate an agreement that works for their family – perhaps alongside their accountant and/or financial advisor. An agreement must be signed at least 28 days before you marry, so give yourself enough time and they always take longer than you think! For further information about this, or any other family law query, contact Elisabeth Sneade at Rudlings Wakelam.