Usually, when you get married or move in together, there are many things on your mind other than safeguarding your wealth for the long-term. If you are getting married, there will be so much to organise and so many exciting things going on, that it often just isn’t on the agenda. If you are moving in, it may be the first step to a lifetime together. There’s a new place, new things to buy and spending all that quality time with your other half – too exciting to think about what might happen if it all goes wrong. But, here’s the thing – you should think about what could happen if it all goes wrong. You should plan for the future. And you should consider protecting any considerable assets you bring to the table.
This is unromantic. I know that. But the sad reality is that somewhere between a third and a half of all marriages in the UK end in divorce. I suspect the number of breakdowns in a cohabitating relationship are considerably higher.
You may think that you have little to safeguard but you may be surprised. The rules for married couples and cohabitees are very different but there are things you can do to help yourself, whatever the domestic set-up.
No prizes for guessing that this is geared towards those moving in together but who have not yet tied the knot. Also known as a living together agreement, this document clearly lays out what each individual wants to take with them in the event of a breakdown, based on what they bring into the relationship. It may also give a steer on any shared assets bought during the course of the cohabitation, and even on how you wish to cope with residence of any children who might be born into the relationship.
While it is not absolutely legally binding, if it has been properly drawn up with both parties agreeing to it, it will give a clear steer to the court on any subsequent debate over settlement.
A prenuptial agreement is essentially insurance for your marriage. It is a difficult topic to raise and you may feel you have no need of it as there is not much to split but it is particularly important if one party comes into the relationship with significantly more than the other person, or there is a business involved, for instance.
Again it needs to be properly drafted and both parties take legal advice, but givers a clear steer on who keeps what if there is divorce further down the line.
These are very similar to pre-nups but are drawn up after the marriage. This can be for a number of reasons but, importantly, they are considered to be fully binding in the UK after five law lords clarified their position in English law recently.
Be aware of the financial implications of divorce. If you want to protect your wealth, going into any divorce with a bit of knowledge about how it works and what claims may be made, will leave you better prepared to argue your case, thus protecting your efforts as best as possible. Going into the marriage having looked into this first is even better.
Bottom line is that good advice for a specialist family lawyer can help you decide which option is best with you. Raising the issue of something like a pre-nup is still a tricky one, and may be an awkward conversation, but better that then being left unfairly out of pocket further down the line.
Family solicitor, Bristol