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Are prenuptial agreements just for the wealthy?

Are prenuptial agreements just for the wealthy?
Image source: Getty Images


With the UK divorce rate on the rise, it’s important to know how to protect your finances if your marriage doesn’t work out. Even if you don’t have much money, you might still benefit from a prenuptial agreement – here’s a rundown of how they work. 

What is a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement, or ‘prenup’, is a contract between you and your partner. It’s always signed before you get married, and it determines what happens to your assets if the marriage ends in divorce. So, if the marriage breaks down, you have a clearer sense of what you’re entitled to.

Prenups are unique to each couple, but they usually cover:

  • What happens to the family home 
  • How much of your spouse’s debt you’re liable for 
  • How you split assets including pensions, savings and investments 
  • Whether you can claim any share of an inheritance given to your spouse 
  • Whether children from a previous marriage have any claim over your assets

You can also use prenups to decide who gets ownership of family pets.

Are prenuptial agreements legally binding?

Technically, no. However, they’re usually upheld in UK courts so long as they meet the following criteria: 

  • Both parties got legal advice before signing the agreement – this is really important. 
  • Neither spouse signed the contract under duress. 
  • No assets were hidden when the prenup was signed. 

In practice, UK courts usually honour prenuptial agreements unless there’s a clear reason why they shouldn’t. 

What happens if I don’t have one?

If you don’t have a prenup and the marriage ends, you still need to agree on how you’ll split the assets. This can be difficult if emotions are running high, but it’s great if you can reach an amicable agreement. 

If you can’t reach your own agreement, the courts can decide for you. It doesn’t mean that they’ll split the assets 50/50, though – this is a common misconception. Instead, they’ll consider what’s fair on both parties. In other words, your partner could be awarded more money than you. 

Don’t forget that you’ll also need to agree on how you’ll pay off joint debts like credit cards and loans. 

Do I need a prenup if I don’t have much money?

Are prenups just for the wealthy? Not at all – this is another common myth. Even if you have limited assets, here are a few reasons why you might still consider a prenuptial agreement: 

  • Prenuptial agreements give you some reassurance and clarity during a highly emotional time. 
  • With a prenup, you can often speed up the divorce process. 
  • Prenups give you control over your own affairs. 
  • If there’s a chance you’ll inherit property, a prenup helps you protect it. 
  • Do you own a small business? With a prenup, you can ensure you don’t lose your ownership interest. 

If you have any assets at all, such as investments or other personal property, it’s worth thinking about a prenup before you tie the knot. 

Are there any downsides to prenups?

Okay, so we’ve covered what a prenuptial agreement is and why it’s a good idea. But all that said, there are two drawbacks you should be aware of: 

  • Since they’re not legally binding, there’s always the chance the courts won’t honour the agreement. 
  • Prenups don’t cover what happens with child support or maintenance. The courts will always be concerned with making sure children are financially secure if there’s a divorce. This could affect whether the prenup is enforced or not.    

It’s crucial you get independent legal advice before signing a prenup. A lawyer will go over the pros and cons with you.

How do I get a prenuptial agreement?

It’s fairly simple to get a prenuptial agreement. Here are the steps to work through: 

  1. Write a list of your assets. 
  2. Decide what you want to happen to your property if there’s a divorce. 
  3. Sit down with your partner and talk over your thoughts.
  4. Get legal advice.
  5. If you’re both still happy to proceed, arrange for your lawyers to draft a prenup.  

The costs of a prenup vary, but they usually start from around £1,500 for a basic agreement. 

Takeaway

Is a prenuptial agreement romantic? No. However, it can help you protect your finances in the long run if your marriage ends. And, even if you don’t have many assets, a prenup might alleviate some of the stress of planning your divorce.

One final thing: from inheritance to investments, prenups can help you safeguard future wealth, too. So even if you don’t have many assets right now, it’s worth thinking long term.  

If you need any more help with a prenuptial agreement or estate planning in general, reach out to a family lawyer or contact Citizens Advice for more guidance. 

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