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How to get a prenuptial agreement in the UK

Securing your future before you marry

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For a free 30-minute initial chat with one of our prenuptial agreement lawyers, call Woolley & Co on 0800 321 3832 or complete our online form.

A prenuptial agreement, or ‘prenup’, in the UK can provide a measure of certainty against the risk of divorce. They can protect pre-marriage assets, inheritance and existing family commitments such as children from a previous marriage. For an effective prenup, you will need to take expert legal advice, which is something our team is happy to provide.

A prenuptial agreement is a document in which a couple sets out their financial rights and obligations. This can be in relation to any property, debts, income and other assets purchased together or acquired individually (e.g., through inheritance) or that they have bought into a relationship.

Legally, once married, these assets become matrimonial assets, and unless specifically protected, they are thrown into a single financial pot. The primary purpose of a prenup will frequently be to limit the potential claims on the wealth of one of the parties to the marriage.

Anyone contemplating marriage should consider whether they need a prenup. Our experienced prenuptial agreements solicitors can assist with matters including:

  • Deciding whether you need a prenup
  • What to include in the agreement
  • Negotiating the terms of the agreement with your partner
  • Drafting your prenuptial agreement
  • Advice on the terms of a prenup you have been asked to sign

Take a look at our team to find a prenuptial agreement lawyer who is right for you.

Speak to an experienced prenuptial agreement solicitor today

Take advantage of a free 30-minute telephone appointment to talk through your situation. We will explain your options and how we can help. You will find our prenuptial agreement solicitors are friendly, approachable and knowledgeable.

For a free 30-minute initial chat with one of our prenuptial agreement solicitors, call Woolley & Co on 0800 321 3832 or complete our online form.

Why you need a prenuptial agreement

For more details read the relevant section below:

What is a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is a document in which a couple sets out their rights to any property, debts, income and other assets purchased together or acquired individually or that they have bought into their relationship if the relationship ends.

If you are already married, you can make an equivalent agreement called a ‘postnuptial agreement’. For a civil partnership, you would instead make a pre-civil partnership agreement (also known as a ‘pre-registration agreement’).

Do I need a prenuptial agreement?

Years ago, prenuptial agreements were thought of as only for the rich and famous. There’s a lot of misunderstanding and mystery surrounding them, when really they are appropriate for most couples.

If you are in any one of the following situations involving marriage, a prenuptial agreement could be right for you:

  • I am thinking of getting married and want to protect my property in case it doesn’t work out.
  • I am about to marry again and want to limit any potential claims on the settlement I received from my first marriage if things go wrong again.
  • I am a widow/er thinking of marrying again. I want to protect my assets in case things go wrong.
  • I am about to marry but worry that, if things go wrong, we could end up in a costly and lengthy argument about “who gets what”
  • I am about to marry again but want to protect my assets to ensure I have something to leave in my will to the children from my first marriage if my new relationship breaks down.

What does a prenup do?

A prenup sets out exactly what rights each party has over their shared assets and can also define individual liabilities, e.g. debts. It should state what will happen to these assets if the couple separates. It may also include guidance on issues such as how the mortgage on the family home will be paid.

In the event of a separation, the terms set out in the prenup will provide clarity over how these issues should be dealt with. This can remove a lot of stress and the potential for conflict.

What should be included in a prenuptial agreement?

A prenup can protect whatever the couple making it agrees to. Typically, it will cover issues such as:

  • The family home
  • Any other properties the couple own together or individually
  • Savings
  • Investments
  • Inheritances
  • Business interests
  • Vehicles
  • Artworks
  • Items of sentimental value
  • Family trusts
  • Maintenance
  • Pension pots
  • Providing for children from previous relationships

It can also protect one spouse against the risk of being held liable for debts the other spouse has incurred.

It is important to stress that prenuptial agreements are bespoke documents. Each individual prenuptial agreement will have its own set of provisions and will be specific to the details of the relationship.

What cannot be included in a prenup in the UK?

The primary purpose behind prenuptial agreements is to set out financial arrangements between the couple to prevent a dispute following a divorce or dissolution. If on divorce the couple are in dispute the prenuptial agreement will be considered by the court.  There are no strict rules on what can and cannot be included, however the court will only consider items relevant to the financial settlement.

Any provisions that are included in a prenuptial agreement that are unfair (failing to meet the basic needs of one party), or they are against public policy (for example link the terms of the settlement to behaviour). If this is the case, they are likely to be disregarded by the court.

While matters such as child arrangements and child maintenance will not typically be included in a prenuptial agreement, or be relevant if the matter goes to court, it is useful to consider these matters and how they could be affected during a divorce or dissolution.

Can you get a prenup in the UK?

Prenuptial agreements are legal in the UK, but they are not legally binding on the court. However, they do have significant weight in court proceedings, as long as you follow the right process when making the agreement.

When making a prenup, you must ensure:

  • That you don’t wait until the last minute, make it a priority in your wedding plans. An agreement signed in haste is less likely to be upheld than one carefully thought out and signed several months before you marry.
  • Both parties must take independent legal advice. This avoids accusations, further down the line if things go wrong, such as undue pressure being put on one party or the other to sign the agreement. It also means that both parties can ensure that the party with the most to lose understands the nature and implications of the agreement they are about to sign.
  • Full disclosure of each party’s respective financial positions must be made prior to the agreement being prepared.
  • Think carefully about the terms and make the agreement as precise, clear and detailed as possible.
  • Think about and decide upon how you would deal with changes in your circumstances that may arise during the marriage. For example, if you are thinking of having children, loss of employment, inheritances, pension provision, and the acquisition of further assets and what would happen in these instances.
  • Also, consider putting in reviews of the agreement at agreed periods during the marriage. The length of the marriage can have a bearing on whether the agreement remains enforceable and regular reviews of the provision can help with this.

Learn more about creating a binding prenuptial agreement by downloading our free PDF guide here.

How to get a prenup

If you are wondering, “How do I get a prenuptial agreement?” then the first step is to consult a solicitor with experience in making these agreements. Both you and your future spouse will need to have independent legal advice before signing the agreement.

Key things to consider are:

  • What assets do you have?
  • What assets does your partner have?
  • What financial needs would you have if you were to separate?
  • Do you have any children? If so, what are their current and likely future needs?

You will then need to have a solicitor draft the document for you. Your partner’s solicitor will need to review the document, make sure your partner fully understands the terms and suggest any necessary amendments.

Once you are both happy with the prenup, you will both need to sign it. This should take place at least 28 days before your wedding.

How much does a prenup cost in the UK?

The question of how much is a prenuptial agreement will depend on your situation. To produce a legally binding prenuptial agreement, it is important that both parties take advice from a divorce and family law solicitor.

You will be charged for drawing up the agreement, with prices normally starting at around £1,500 plus VAT. The total cost of a prenup in the UK will depend on the complexity of your finances and the arrangements that you wish to make. This price will normally include advice on the full implications of the agreement, along with guidance on appropriate times to review the content.

For a clearer understanding of how much your prenuptial agreement is likely to cost, our expert family law solicitors can advise you during a free initial telephone appointment.

Can you write your own prenup in the UK?

Many of the people we speak to ask whether they can prepare their own prenup, hoping to save money or make the process easier for themselves.

In our view, this is a dangerous course of action. As it stands at the moment, prenuptial agreements are not legally binding documents. However, if you want any hope of having a court take account of the wishes expressed in a prenup, you need to make sure the agreement is prepared in a very particular way. This includes making sure that both parties have had proper legal advice in relation to the agreement.

Without the advice of a legal expert, you could fall into several traps when preparing a prenup. Under what conditions would you want to review the agreement? For example, how will the prenup take account of any future significant financial changes in your partner’s position? What about if you have children and one of you gives up work to look after them? These and many more considerations need to be taken into account if you are to prepare a binding prenup.

So, our advice is always to take guidance from a family law solicitor who’s an expert in prenuptial agreements, whether you choose to have them prepare the agreement or not. And don’t, whatever you do, pay for a templated self-completion prenuptial agreement. It is very unlikely to take account of your unique circumstances and achieve the result you are looking for.

Are prenups legally binding in the UK?

When you marry, your assets become ‘matrimonial assets’ and, unless specifically protected, can be considered for division between you within divorce proceedings. The main purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to limit the potential claims on the assets of one of the parties to the marriage and avoid costly litigation over “who gets what”.

At present, a prenuptial agreement does not carry the same weight as a court order. It will not ‘automatically’ be upheld or enforced by an English or Welsh court in the event of a divorce and/or disagreement.

The courts do, however, take them seriously. This is because a prenuptial agreement is evidence of your intentions to one another in the event of your relationship breakdown. It is one of the factors that a court may consider when looking at all the circumstances of your case.

The court will carefully consider things like:

  • Did the party with the most to lose understand the nature of the prenuptial agreement?
  • Did they have independent legal advice?
  • Were they under pressure to sign?
  • Was there full financial disclosure?
  • Would it be fair and reasonable to uphold the prenuptial agreement?

Can you get a prenup after marriage?

If you are already married or in a civil partnership, and wish to put an agreement in place, it is possible to sign a ‘postnuptial agreement’.

Postnuptial agreements regulate the financial terms of a potential divorce or separation in much the same way as a prenuptial agreement. The only tangible difference between postnuptial and prenuptial agreements is the point at which they are signed.

If you already have a prenuptial agreement in place, and wish to amend the terms, you will need to sign a new postnuptial agreement. This will be an essential step if there have been any changes in your circumstances since the prenuptial agreement was first signed (such as if one partner’s income has significantly increased or an unexpected inheritance has been discovered).

How long before a wedding should a prenup be signed in the UK?

In most cases, both parties will need to sign a prenuptial agreement at least 28 days before the planned wedding date. This is to ensure that both parties are able to receive the appropriate legal advice prior to signing and there is no evidence that either party has been forced into agreeing to certain terms that would disadvantage them.

Depending on the arrangements that need to be made, the terms of a prenuptial agreement could take several months to negotiate and agree. This means that, in many instances, taking the time to agree on a prenuptial agreement far in advance of a wedding date would be beneficial for all parties, ensuring that the process is not rushed in any way.

Can prenuptial agreements be used for civil partnerships?

Yes. However, the primary difference is that an agreement for a civil partnership is known as a pre-civil partnership agreement, or pre-registration agreement.

They work in the same way as a prenup for a marriage, meaning the same parameters apply with regards to what can be included, and what would ensure that it is legally enforceable by the courts.

What are the pros and cons of a prenuptial agreement?

There are a wide range of advantages to signing a prenuptial agreement. No matter what your personal circumstances may be, they can often prove to be extremely beneficial for the future of your marriage, or civil partnership in the case of pre-civil partnership agreements.

Some of the main advantages of a prenup are that it can:

  • Provide certainty that you will be financially secure if your marriage ends in divorce
  • Protect the interests of any children
  • Avoid questions about either party’s motivation in entering the marriage
  • Protect family assets, such as family trusts and businesses
  • Make it clear how your mortgage, bills and other outgoings should be covered
  • Remove the potential for tension over these issues, both during your relationship and if you separate

While there aren’t really any disadvantages with a properly made prenuptial agreement, some things to consider are:

  • You must follow the correct process to ensure the agreement is valid
  • The agreement will need changing if you have children after you marry (in which case, you would need to make a ‘postnuptial agreement’ to replace your prenup)
  • Having a prenup does not mean you will not need to make a formal financial separation if you divorce – you will still need a financial consent order, including a clean break, to avoid any future claims on your assets

Download the Woolley & Co guide to prenuptial agreements

Our prenuptial agreement solicitors in the UK are here for you

Prenuptial agreements can be a sensitive issue, but they can save you a lot of stress and uncertainty, as well as give you financial security for the future. Our friendly, expert team are here to make sure you get the right agreement in place as smoothly as possible.

To take advantage of your free 30-minute consultation with our expert prenuptial agreement lawyers, call 0800 321 3832, or complete our quick online form.

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