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Valentine’s Day proposal – should we sign a pre-nup?

Valentine's Day is unsurprisingly one of the three most popular days in the UK for engagements. If you are reading this with a shiny addition to your (or your partner's) left hand – congratulations!

What could say that you are marrying for love, not money, more than a pre-nuptial agreement? Although often considered unromantic, just talking about pre-nuptial agreements can be an extremely useful step in discussing where you and your partner see your futures together. They should be seen as a sensible precaution as opposed to “planning for a divorce”.

What is a pre-nuptial agreement?

A pre-nuptial agreement, sometimes known as a pre-nup, is one made between you and your partner setting out the basis on which you and your partner intend to deal with your assets should the unfortunate D word become reality in the future. They normally consider a variety of different scenarios, including if you have children or if one of you stops working. They can be very flexible and give you lots of options to come up with solutions which suit you both.

Why do we need to think about a pre-nuptial agreement?

Pre-nuptial agreements are a great tool in supporting financial planning for the future. When you consider that the starting point on divorce without a pre-nuptial agreement is broadly 50/50, it is easy to see how much reassurance and protection they can offer if there are assets to protect or unusual family circumstances to recognise.

One other key benefit of a pre-nuptial agreement is that it can mean that, if you split up, your divorce may be less acrimonious as the way in which your assets will be divided has already been  agreed. Do judges know what to do with people’s finances better than the people themselves? The courts have been very supportive of people who make their own financial plans and take the time, advice and effort to put those into a clear document.

Pre-nuptial agreements are a particularly useful tool to ring-fence assets in your sole name that you wouldn’t want to share on divorce. This could be a house savings or the prospect of an inheritance in the future. Likewise, if one partner has been married before or has children, a pre-nuptial agreement can deal with safeguarding assets for the future.

Who makes pre-nuptial agreements?

Pre-nuptial agreements are not for everyone but they are increasingly common. Society has moved on from the old arguments against pre-nuptial agreements and they are  no longer seen as undermining marriage. Often seen as something which is only needed by celebrities or the super-rich, our case load shows that this is absolutely not the case!

It is important that you decide to make a pre-nuptial agreement as a couple without family members being involved. It is worth considering, however, that the Bank of Mum and Dad often do want some protection for their investment and a pre-nuptial agreement is one of the easiest ways of doing this.

When should we sign our pre-nuptial agreement?

There is no hard and fast rule about when other than before the wedding! It is best to set aside some time to think about this and speak to a solicitor so we would normally recommend speaking to a solicitor at least six months before your wedding. Having said that, we can work with shorter or longer timescales! One key aspect of a pre-nuptial agreement is that you need to demonstrate that both partners signed it of their own free will and a very hurried and rushed agreement may be more open to challenge than one considered over a period of time.

Where can I get more information?

Get in touch with our Family Team  who have a wealth of experience in pre-nuptial agreements for families with a variety of needs and will be happy to advise on how best to proceed.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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