Prenuptial agreements in the UK

Prenuptial agreements are nothing new, in fact they date back over two thousand years to ancient Egypt. Back then however, prenups were a little different and written on documents of up to eight feet long, in hieroglyphics. That being said, the prenuptial agreements of ancient Egypt also served as a financial safeguard in the event of a marriage’s end.

Prenups have been on the rise since the Radmacher v Granatino case of 2010, a ruling which gave the agreements significantly more legal weight, and are increasingly more accepted. With 42% of marriages ending in divorce in the UK, prenuptial agreements are a way of ensuring that individuals aren’t left in the lurch when a marriage dissolves.

Of course, prenups can be a tricky thing to navigate. While pragmatic, they’re not exactly the most romantic start to a “Till death do us part”. These agreements can however provide peace of mind. So, if you find yourself wondering about the ins and outs of prenups, look no further. Keep reading and you’ll have the rundown in no time at all.

This article will explain:

  • What a prenuptial agreement is
  • Whether the agreement is legally binding
  • How to navigate a prenuptial agreement
  • Whether prenups can be disputed and invalidated
  • How much prenups cost

What is a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement otherwise known as a prenup, is a legal document signed by a couple prior to a marriage or partnership. This document specifies how the couple’s assets will be divided, if in the unfortunate event, they divorces.

Broadly, a prenuptial agreement will cover everything from inheritance and savings, protection from debt and business ownership. Although these agreements are infamous for being used by wealthy couples, they are now more and more common.

Are prenuptial agreements legally binding?

In the UK, prenups are not in fact legally binding, however despite not having any statutory footing, they do have more weight now than before 2010. In the landmark case of Radmacher v Granatino in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that prenups should be upheld unless one party could prove otherwise.

Following this, in 2014, the Law Commission published its “Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements” report, which outlined a number of different recommendations regarding prenups. This included the introduction of “qualifying nuptial agreements,” which set out guidelines for couples to follow, to ensure that prenups would be upheld in court.

The Law Commission’s guidance outlines:

  • At the time of the agreement, both parties must have received full disclosure around their partner’s financial situation
  • Both parties must enter into the agreement of their own free will, and not under duress or misrepresentation, therefore making agreement contractually valid
  • Prior to forming the agreement, both parties must have had access to and received sufficient legal advice
  • The agreement must be made more than 28 days prior to the marriage or civil partnership
  • The agreement must be made by deed and contain a statement signed by both parties, outlining that both parties understand the agreement

How to navigate a prenuptial agreement

Making the decision to get a prenuptial agreement is a big deal, and should be treated as such. While it’s easy to get swept up in the hullabaloo of wedding preparations, organising a prenup should not be forgotten to the last minute. If it’s signed just before you walk down the aisle, it will carry far less weight!

Sufficient preparation and honesty is of utmost importance. So, couples should lay out all of their property and assets, as well as any debts and liabilities, and not forget about any future financial goals either. After all, when it comes to prenups, the devil really is in the detail and clarity is vital.

On top of this, it is paramount that couples get independent legal advice. This is because it’s essential that both parties fully understand the nature of the agreement, and, if in the worst case scenario, the marriage doesn’t work out, parties cannot claim they were forced into signing.

Additionally, as no one ever knows what is around the corner, it’s important that couples look ahead into the future. Couples may hope to hear the pitter patter of little feet in the future, or perhaps, one party works in an employment field that is financially unstable. Whatever the case, it’s a good idea to think about what will happen if circumstances change. Equally, it’s also a wise idea to consider inserting review periods throughout the marriage, which will give couples the opportunity to make changes to the agreement as they see fit.

Can prenuptial agreements be disputed and invalidated?

A prenuptial agreement is not the be all and end all, and can be disputed and declared invalid. However, in order for this to be done, a party must bring forward a legitimate reason for the judge to consider.

If at the time of signing the agreement, one party was subject to coercion, or incapacitated by mental illness, a judge may rule that the agreement is invalid. Equally, if either party did not understand the content of the agreement when they signed it, this would also count as grounds for dispute.

In addition to this, legal advice and representation is another crux of the agreement, and without this, a judge could once again rule that an agreement is invalid.

Administrative mistakes can also be a reason for an agreement being made invalid. If paperwork was poorly drafted, or missing information at the time the couple signed the agreement, it can be disputed and will also probably be ruled invalid.

Once again, as outlined above, honesty is the best policy, so if a party fails to fully disclose assets and debts, it’s likely an agreement won’t hold up in court.

How much do prenuptial agreements cost?

When it comes to prenuptial agreements, the costs will vary on a case by case basis. If a prenup involves complex arrangements, and negotiations, then, unfortunately, it’s likely that costs will be relatively high, and in the tens of thousands.

However, if everything is straightforward, costs for getting a legal team to draw up a draft prenuptial agreement start at around £1,500.

Final thoughts

These days, prenups are increasingly becoming the thing to do, and a good defence to protect you and your partner against any turbulence in the future.

So, whether you’re getting remarried, or you just want to think pragmatically about finances, you now have all the information you need to make a well thought out and legally binding agreement.

Article Created By Madaline Dunn

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