Getting married? Get prepared.

07 Dec 2012

In this article, Suzanne Foster, a family lawyer at Trethowans Solicitors highlights two important considerations for couples planning to tie the knot. Firstly she explains the role a pre-nuptial agreement (pre-nup) plays and secondly, the importance of making or updating your Will when you get married.

But seen in another light, pre-nups are a testament to the honesty and care for each other that a couple has when the relationship is at its strongest. Instead of disputing financial arrangements at one of the worst times in your life (a divorce), when goodwill may be stretched to breaking point or entirely lacking, negotiating them when you still have each other's best interests at heart makes sense. Fairness and a wish to "do right" by the other person is more likely to prevail.

A pre-nuptial agreement is often sought by those who have inherited wealth to protect for future generations, but are equally as likely to be sought by those who are marrying for a second time and who want to preserve what they bring in to the relationship or those marrying for the first time who just want certainty about the future if things don't work out. Such agreements have regular reviews built into them so that the financial structure can be updated when significant changes happen – the birth of children, the acquisition of substantial windfalls or the development of lucrative business interests.

Why is it important to make or update a Will when you get married?

When you say "I do" your existing Will becomes invalid. However, a Will can be made in contemplation of marriage, and will remain valid if it is made clear that you intend it to remain in force after you’ve said your vows.  A new Will can be drawn up by a by a solicitor who can ensure that there is no ambiguity and that your wishes are clear and unequivocal.  This will allow your loved ones to be protected.

Contrary to popular belief, making a Will is relatively straightforward and should not be put off as being unimportant.  A Will can ensure that any children you may have from current or previous relationships are provided for.

If you die without making a Will, the rules of 'intestacy' would apply. One or more of your family members would apply to administer your estate and it will then be distributed to your relatives in accordance with the law. This could mean that the people you wish to benefit from your assets do not do so because they are not entitled to them under the law. The intestacy rules may also result in complex trusts being set up which can be costly to administer.

If you already have a Will it is possible to make minor changes by means of short supplementary documents called 'codicils' to reflect your new circumstances.