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Time for a Pre-Nup?

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By Caroline Keeley

The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting social distancing measures have meant that many couples have not been able to get married. For many people, their wedding insurance will not pay out to cancel the wedding and they will have already paid many deposits including, quite often, the full venue cost. This means that for most couples they are postponing the date to later this year (uncertain still when restrictions will be lifted to the extent that wedding celebrations may proceed) or to 2021.

Never before have people’s finances been more heavily scrutinised, with most households being affected one way or another. Whilst the postponement of the wedding is disappointing, it does give couples the opportunity to consider whether a Pre-Nuptial Agreement (Pre-Nup) would be appropriate for them. Wedding planning is an all-consuming process from finding the venue to booking the caterers, the photographer, the florist, cars, entertainment, outfits and arranging the honeymoon. Pre-Nups can be thought of as unromantic amidst all of that, but now, having likely arranged everything for the ‘Big Day’, there may be time to look into this further. You may not be comfortable asking your fiancé all about all the ins and outs of their finances, but having a proper understanding of where you both stand can actually give each of you a bit of comfort and security about the future.

You may already be aware that Pre-Nuptial Agreements are not legally binding upon our courts in England and Wales. So what’s the point? More and more people are entering into Pre-Nups and this may be for a number of reasons; some are getting married for a second time, they may have already been through a divorce before and have assets that they want to protect for their children; one person may be coming to the marriage with a significant asset base behind them and want some security for that; in these times where it is near impossible to get onto the housing ladder on your own, the Bank of Mum and Dad is often helping out and parents will often want some security for their hard earned money that they have passed on to their son or daughter.

In subsequent divorce proceedings, whilst not being bound to them, our Judges are considering with increasing importance, Pre-Nuptial Agreements that have been drawn up carefully, with both parties having received individual legal advice and there having been full and frank financial disclosure. Another key point to consider is timing. Often, we will be approached about a Pre-Nup with little time leading up to the wedding; it’s the last thing to tick off on the to-do list. But agreements which are signed just as people are about to walk up the aisle will be at risk of putting the financially weaker party under pressure or duress to sign. Couples who have not yet explored the option of a Pre-Nup or who thought they were too late, might now have the time to do so.

You cannot apply a one-size-fits-all approach to Pre-Nups. Using a basic document pulled off the internet which a few boxes filled is unlikely to be worth the paper it’s printed on. These are bespoke documents and need to be carefully considered and prepared. At TWM, we have specialists who are experienced in drawing up and advising on Pre-Nuptial Agreements. Please do get in touch with one of our Family team if you would like to discuss this further.

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