If you are getting married, now is the time to think ahead about the financial arrangements. It may sound unromantic, but if you want to be sure that both parties are fully protected then get a pre-nuptial agreement drawn up.
Eileen Pembridge, Senior Partner and Head of Family Law at Fisher Meredith LLP, has over 40 years experience helping couples through the legal issues surrounding assets when getting married (and unfortunately when getting divorced too).
Eileen believes that a pre-nuptial agreement is particularly important if there are big differences between you in terms of wealth or age, or if it is a second marriage for one of you and you already have children.
It can be an unhappy start to a second marriage if a stepmother or father is perceived as the one likely to take all if a parent dies or there is a divorce.
For example, a client that Eileen helped recently was about to embark on her second marriage. She had three adult children from a long previous marriage. She’d accumulated significant assets during the course of that marriage and wanted to ensure that her wealth would pass to her children in due course.
Both parties signed an agreement setting out that in the event of the death of either party or breakdown of the marriage the pre-marriage assets of each would remain their sole property and assets acquired during the marriage would be divided equally. In this way both parties and their children were protected.
If you are planning to get married Eileen has some advice:
1) Each of you should take independent legal advice
2) Tell the other frankly about what you own and earn and expect to receive
3) Download and complete a Form E from hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk Your solicitors will use this information to create a schedule for each of you respectively so that the ‘pre-marital assets’ can be ascertained, and thus readily ringfenced and distinguished from property jointly owned at the time of marriage or acquired subsequently
4) You will also want to ensure that you make a will to reflect what you are stating will happen in the event not only of divorce but of death
Ideally these should be drawn up and signed six months before the wedding. This helps to avoid what’s known as “late pressure” on (usually) a bride excitedly preparing for her big day or on the fiancé facing the prospect of withdrawing wedding invitations.
If you do leave it too late for a measured discussion pre marriage, you can of course also encapsulate what you meant to arrange in a post –nuptial agreement.
A pre-nuptial agreement may seem unromantic, but talking about it together and putting a clear agreement in place can save a lot of heartache later and can be considered the basis for a strong relationship built on transparency and communication.
Pre-nuptials are now so common, and so important, that solicitors often go to Wedding Fairs to set up their stalls alongside those offering the flowers, the cake and the dress.