Helen Jane Arnold, Legal Director at Benussi & Co considers whether prenuptial agreements are a kill or cure process when it comes to marriage plans and the possibility of divorce.
The world is captivated currently with the romance and imminent wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, leaving many Royal watchers with a magnificent rosy glow and everyone wishing them a long and happy marriage. The idea that either party may have considered preparing a legal prenuptial agreement is considered by many as distasteful.
Here in the UK however, there is a tendency to look at prenuptial agreements with disdain, as most people take a far more romantic view on marriage than our continental friends in Europe and the US.
Whilst protocol may leave Meghan Markle somewhat bemused, according to Helen Jane Arnold, a specialist in this field, this is an essential aspect to consider particularly for those with significant assets when they look to tie the matrimonial knot.
“No-one wants to believe, when they are planning to get married that things could go wrong, but considering this before the wedding is crucial, particularly if one party has substantially more at stake than another. Meghan Markle has been brought up in a country where the culture of prenuptial agreements is very familiar, so whether this has been considered or whether Royal protocol dictates that it is a ‘dirty’ word, it is likely that a pre-nup will have flickered through her mind. Of course, Meghan has accumulated her own wealth. However, by its very nature, her marriage to Prince Harry will change her life irrevocably. Children, security and of course her life as a princess will now all play their part in her future destiny.
There are many who will say that prenuptial agreements can protect the assets of both parties and help to prevent unpleasant battles in court should a relationship come to an end.
Many people do not want to consider technicalities and financial discussions that are normally associated with prenuptial agreements before their wedding day, because they believe it is unseemly and that this type of agreement has the potential to bring about the collapse of a marriage before it has even begun; yet balancing the interests of both parties really should be considered and well before the wedding day.”
For Helen Jane Arnold, pre-nups are an essential element of the whole process before couples go on to arrange the cake, the designer dress, the Bollinger and the honeymoon destination.
“For those who have pre-existing assets at stake, a lawyer should be on the top of the list. Sadly, we can verify there are many marriages which end in divorce, which are financially and emotionally costly. Circumstances change in a marriage over time and, should the worst happen, assets will need to be distributed. Discussing arrangements before the event, may seem unromantic during the engagement period, yet agreement prior to marriage is practical and can save a huge amount of time, heartache and money in the future.”
For those on an equal footing financially, a prenuptial agreement is not as essential. Young couples getting married for the first time with little or no assets who intend to grow their lives together as equal partners, will not generally need to consider a formal agreement. Large inheritances or family trusts will need to be considered if one party has the potential to inherit a fortune.
In other circumstances where a family trust or a business inheritance or existing business interests come into play, then a pre-nuptial agreement will give assurance upon any future division of assets.
“For someone in Prince Harry’s position, a prenuptial agreement will protect his assets in a worst case scenario situation. It is generally considered that assets which are owned by someone when they marry may be protected from a claim by the other party in the event of a divorce, subject to needs. If there is an increase in value during the marriage then this will have to be considered.
In short, if someones premarital estate is substantial, common sense dictates that a spouse will not share in it if they divorce. If there are children from a former relationship, then a prenuptial agreement is helpful to protect their financial interests.”
There is great peace in simply knowing
Despite the emotions involved in negotiating, the anxiety created by a torrid divorce is far more destructive, especially when children are involved.
“It makes far more sense to iron out financial issues to establish an agreed financial framework at the outset. This understanding gives both parties protection, which Judges will consider should the worst happen.”
What should I do now?
Anyone wishing to discuss prenuptial agreements should always take legal advice well in advance of the marriage. Every case is different and each document will need to be carefully considered, and tailored to suit the individual circumstances of each couple.
In general, a pre-nup should be entered into and signed welling advance of marriage to avoid any possible divorce claims that the arrangement was rushed.
Hopefully the need to refer to the terms of a prenuptial document will never be required. However, do call one of the Benussi & Co team for confidential advice should this article have raised any concerns regarding a forthcoming marriage or indeed, a divorce issue.