Planning a wedding and dreaming of a long and happy future together is extremely exciting, but it mustn’t overshadow the serious implications of combining finances and making long-term commitments together, such as starting mortgages, running family businesses and, of course, raising children. It may seem less than romantic, but opting for a prenuptial agreement (or ‘pre-nup’) that clearly lays out the obligations of each person, should the marriage fail, is a prudent way to protect both parties.
Prenuptial agreements can cover a wide range of concerns, from property to child maintenance. Here are some areas to consider.
Should a marriage be dissolved, any property or land owned by either one or both parties can be legally redistributed as part of the divorce financial settlement. This can become quite a contentious issue, so having a clause in a prenup stating who will own what should a marriage end, will help keep things clear and on track. This can be especially useful if one person brings substantially more valuable property assets into a marriage than the other.
Savings and pensions
These kinds of assets can represent future security and also affect plans for retirement. They can also become even more relevant for second marriages, or for people marrying later in life, as there will be fewer years ahead to accrue savings through paid work. Divorce settlements usually include decisions on pension sharing that can be contentious and painful to agree upon. Knowing in advance how you are going to divide investments, savings and policies will save a lot of bother if the worst should happen to your marriage. As will the agreement of any spousal maintenance required, should the assets end up not being divided equally.
Family heirlooms should also feature in a prenup, as these can often have great sentiment attached to them, as well as monetary value. Paintings, jewellery, ornaments etc. should be listed individually with clear instructions about who keeps what, or if anything should be sold and the profits divided. Possessions bought jointly during the marriage must be given a lot of thought too and, while agreements can be made for specific items when the split is negotiated, having some broader guidelines already in the prenup can help smooth the way. Even things like family photos with little to no financial value can cause problems in a difficult divorce and should be thought about in advance.
Particularly relevant in the case of businesses that have passed down the generations, a prenup should include decisions about whether such businesses will be ring-fenced in the favour of one party or not. Other options include specifying an agreed financial settlement with share options or the opportunity to buy the other party out. If both parties are keen to continue the business, post-divorce, arrangements can also be included to guide how this will happen to minimise disruption and fall-outs.
Just as in a Will, laying out requirements for any children existing before the marriage or future children who arrive in the family after it is a very important part of a prenup. Issues affecting such children could include living arrangements, division of child care and financial obligations. You could even include agreements for religious upbringing, country of domicile and how to handle any childhood illnesses or hospital stays that might arise.
Negotiating a prenuptial agreement that both parties are happy with and that is equitable is no easy task. Seeking the help of a solicitor that specialises in prenup documents will help ensure everything is legally binding, fair and achievable. It will also help reach person ensure that their wishes are properly recorded and that a full and binding agreement can be made. Then, once that is done, you can get on with planning the wedding!