Anyone planning on entering into a formal union in the United Kingdom may have questions and concerns regarding their current or future wealth and assets. Contrary to popular belief, investigating and entering into prenuptial agreements is far from uncommon.
In fact, evidence suggests that more soon-to-be couples in the United Kingdom than ever before are considering the potential benefits of formal prenuptial agreements.
In this brief guide, we’ll be taking a look at just a few of the most common and important questions on the subject of prenuptial agreements in the UK.
1. What is a prenup?
Roughly summarised, a ‘prenup’ is a formal agreement reached between two individuals who intend to join in some kind of recognised union. Such agreements are used to determine the outcome in the event that the couple separates for any given reason. A prenuptial agreement can ensure that one or both partners retain ownership of their wealth and assets, irrespective of when, why and how the subsequent separation occurs.
2. Are prenups legally binding?
Though it’s often assumed that prenuptial agreements are legally binding, this isn’t actually the case. However, in the vast majority of separation cases that involve a prenuptial agreement, the courts will enforce the terms agreed in the prenup. It’s therefore technically possible to dispute a prenuptial agreement, but the courts will almost always enforce whatever was agreed at the time the prenup was entered into.
3. Why should a couple consider a prenup?
For most, entering into a prenup simply provides them with something of an insurance policy to protect their wealth and assets. In a working example, an individual with a sizeable estate and extensive assets planning to marry a person with little to no wealth whatsoever may wish to safeguard their property and money in case of subsequent divorce. In addition, a prenup can significantly streamline and simplify divorce and separation proceedings, as the allocation of wealth and assets has already been taken care of.
4. What are the potential disadvantages?
Prenups can be awkward to discuss and negotiate at the best of times. Particularly when planning to enter into a formal and long-term relationship, bringing up the subject of a prenup can be anything but romantic. Rather than focusing on the romance and ceremony of the union, drawing up a prenup means disclosing assets, discussing who gets what and involving legal representatives to tie the whole thing together.
5. What can a prenup contain?
Technically speaking, a prenuptial agreement can contain anything those drawing it up want it to. For the most part, however, prenups are predominantly financial and detail the allocation of wealth and assets, in the event of separation. A prenuptial agreement can be as broad or specific as you want it to be, but it is advisable to keep the terms therein as clear as possible to avoid potential disputes, in the event that it is enforced.
6. Do lawyers need to be involved?
Unfortunately, it isn’t currently possible to draw up or enter into a prenuptial agreement without legal representation. The Law Commission in the United Kingdom has made professional legal consultancy a requirement for both parties entering into a prenup. Legal advice must also be sought from separate (independent) lawyers, as opposed to both partners working with the same solicitor.
7. Are prenups kept confidential?
Yes – the only people who will be aware of the details of your prenuptial agreement are you (the couple) and the solicitors you work with when drawing up the document. The only scenario that would see details of the prenup shared with other individuals would be in the event that a subsequent dispute is brought before the courts. In which case, all aspects of the prenup may be discussed and scrutinised to reach a formal decision.
8. How long do agreements take to negotiate?
It’s technically possible for a prenuptial agreement to be drawn up in a matter of hours. If you have all the required information and have already agreed with your partner on your separation of wealth and assets, the document itself isn’t particularly difficult to draw up. However, delays and complications can occur along the way, so it is advisable to get started at least one month prior to the intended date of union. In addition, prenups that are rushed into due to limited time being available are typically considered more contentious by the courts.
9. What is the cost of an agreement?
The cost of a prenuptial agreement will be determined by its complexity and the amount of time needed to draw up the document. However, it’s important to request a full and transparent disclosure of costs from your legal representative, prior to getting started. You will usually be charged in accordance with time and involvement, as opposed to a set fee for the prenup as a whole. This is because it can be difficult to completely eliminate the prospect of complications or delays along the way – speak to your solicitor for more information.
10. What if one of the partners leaves the UK?
This is where things become complicated, as there are no guarantees that an international court will uphold the terms and conditions in a British prenup. As things stand, there is no such thing as a ‘global’ prenup that’s recognised on an international basis. This is why it is essential to seek expert legal advice at the earliest possible stage, if you or your partner is considering an international move after entering into a prenup. The same also applies to foreign couples with prenups signed overseas moving into the UK – agreements arranged in foreign territories may not be recognised or enforceable in Great Britain.
Independent Expert Advice…
At Aristone Solicitors, we understand and appreciate the sensitivity of complex legal matters like these. That’s why we’re proud to offer a personable and non-judgmental approach to the legal advice and consultancy we provide.
All initial consultations are provided 100% free of charge, with no obligation to go ahead at any time. For more information or to discuss any aspect of prenups in the UK in more detail, contact a member of the team at Aristone Solicitors anytime.