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Should I have a pre-nuptial agreement?

Posted on 21st October 2016

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, Amal and George Clooney and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are just some of the big name stars to have signed pre-nuptial agreements ahead of their big day. Yet you’d be wrong if you thought ‘pre-nups’ were the preserve of the rich and famous.

In my work as a family lawyer, I am starting to see what most of us would deem ‘regular’ people now considering a pre-nuptial agreement to protect their assets.

Increasingly too, parents are becoming more influential in their son or daughter’s decision to have an agreement drawn up, particularly where the bank of Mom and Dad has funded a new property or gifted their offspring shares, for example. It’s becoming a normal reaction for parents to want to protect the assets that they’ve worked hard to create.

So why should you consider a pre-nup?

  • People who have pre-nuptial agreements tend to fall into two camps:
    The wealthy and the famous: those that either have celebrity status or those that were either born into wealth or created wealth.
  • Regular people, like you, that have worked hard to create modest (compared to the above group) assets.

Why don’t more people consider pre-nups?

A YouGov survey reported that 35% of Brits say they would sign a prenuptial agreement if their partner asked them to, while 36% would not agree to it.
Firstly, it’s about perception. Think about why most of us know about pre-nups in the first place. It’s most likely that we’ve read about a celebrity having one, or in some cases, not having one to their great cost. As a result, many people mistakenly think that pre-nups are the preserve of the mega rich and so don’t think they need one.

Secondly, there’s the problem of our Britishness. Talking about money or the possibility of a marriage not working out are taboo subjects. But look at it another way, most people wouldn’t dream of going into a business partnership with someone without first getting an agreement signed. Plus, with over 130,000 people getting divorced every year it seems a perfectly rational and sensible thing to do. We’re well used to protecting ourselves against other risks in life, why not insure against the risk of our marriage failing and losing our wealth?

A major American study last year found that most millennials are putting off marriage until they have accomplished other important milestones. In doing so, it is much more common when people do eventually get married, for them to be bringing some assets into the marriage and so it’s only right they should be protected should things not work out.

Pre-nuptial agreements aren’t legally-binding and it would need a change in the law for them to become so. However, a recent case said that if the agreement was properly drawn-up there was no reason why it should not be taken into account.

A pre-nuptial agreement will need to show:

  • That both you and your partner sought separate independent legal advice;
  • A full disclosure of assets (which will be attached to the agreement);
  • That there is no duress. I am often sceptical if someone comes to me on their eve of their marriage asking for a ‘rush job’.
  • No unforeseen circumstances developing such as children, disabilities or a massive increase or decrease in wealth
  • The agreement being entered into at least three weeks before the marriage.

The sooner we all get over the taboo around pre-nuptial agreements, the better!

Celebrities and pre-nups

Celebrities with pre-nupsCelebrities without pre-nups
Beyonce and Jay-ZRussell Brand and Katy Perry
Keith Urban and Nicole KidmanCheryl Cole and Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael DouglasMel Gibson and wife Robyn
Elizabeth Taylor and Larry FortenskyMadonna and Guy Ritchie
Sir Paul McCartney and Heather MillsRoseanne Barr and Tom Arnold

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