Hardly a romantic exercise but they are practical at a time when we are all becoming more financially astute about our assets. Most people can think about this much more rationally at the beginning of a relationship rather than at the start of divorce proceedings when, because of stress and hurt, rationality tends to go out of the window.
It really does take some of the stress out of it. Pre-nuptial agreements are a common sense step you should take to protect your personal and business assets should you eventually divorce.
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Our family solicitors draft individually tailored pre-nuptial agreements for clients who are about to either marry or remarry. With pre-nuptial agreements it is very important that both parties take independent legal advice (from separate solicitors) before an agreement is signed. The agreement should be signed at least 21 days before the wedding is to take place.
Pre-nuptial agreements are a real opportunity for people to set out in reasonable circumstances what they would like to happen to their assets in the event of an unfortunate breakdown of their marriage.
Everyone associates them with multi-million pound cases. But if you have worked very hard for many years to build up your assets, such as a home, business or investment, these are equally precious and the agreement can substantially reduce arguments as to what will be fair. They are a really good working document from which to start.
Where couples are re-marrying in their 40s, 50s and 60s, each party has often built up substantial wealth – sometimes from inherited acquisitions themselves – with the presumption that these would eventually go to members of their respective families.
Pre-nups also make particular sense for those entering into second or subsequent marriages who may well desire to protect the inheritance rights for their children from an earlier relationship, it is a way of reducing any conflict that might arise between the parties and their families.
Pre-nups are not currently considered to be legally binding but when they are freely entered into and have been clearly drafted courts are increasingly taking account of them and upholding the provisions they make.
Courts look at what is fair and a pre-nuptial agreement will be considered among a host of other factors. For instance, it will not override the general principal that the children will be provided for first, but most pre-nuptial agreements are likely to provide for the reasonable expectations of the parties should the marriage fail.
The courts will examine how the arrangements were made and whether both parties understood what they were agreeing to and were properly advised. It will always come to its decision based on fairness.
But the courts are becoming attuned to pre-nuptials and they are likely to be given much more weight in the future.
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