May 16, 2014

How prenups can help couples protect their assets

By Peter Jones, partner and founder

The gagging order on Katie Price’s soon to be ex-husband Kieran Hayler has catapulted the topic of prenups once again to the forefront of the media agenda.

Fortunately, the former glamour model’s watertight and comprehensive prenup also included a confidentiality agreement which prevents Kieran Hayler from revealing intimate details of the couple’s controversial relationship.

This latest prenup story comes in a week where it has been revealed that prenup agreements are on the rise – a situation we are also experiencing at Jones Myers where we have seen the number of clients negotiating these agreements treble in the last month alone.

While it is widely believed that prenups are taken out to protect every asset, as in Katie Price’s situation, the reality is that you can ring fence as much or as little as you want.  A prenup can be viewed as an opportunity to be creative about how matters should be dealt with in the event that your relationship breaks down rather than being subject to the same legal regime as everyone else.

Prenups are sought for all sorts of reasons. Some couples who are embarking on marriage for the second time are keen to go down the prenup route to ensure that certain assets are preserved for their children from previous relationships – whilst others are protecting wealth which may have been in their family for generations

Where we were previously being commissioned by high net worth individuals, now we are also being approached by couples of limited means.

The key thing to remember is that prenups need to be finalised in good time – at least three weeks before the wedding as opposed to a last minute scramble. If not, in the event of a divorce, a judge might think that one partner has been put under pressure by the other to sign it, leaving it open to the judge to ignore its terms.

When someone considering a prenup comes to see us, we advise them to carefully think through how their married lives may pan out.  Should different arrangements exist if the marriage lasts for a long time, or if children are born?  Couples also need to be completely frank with each other about their financial position from the start. If not, the agreement is likely to be set aside.  An effective prenuptial agreement is all about planning and being well informed.

Prenups are not legally binding in England & Wales – a situation which will only change if a proposed draft bill  recognising ‘qualifying nuptial agreements’ is implemented – and only then if the agreement meets fairly strict criteria.

Until then – and on the basis that prevention is better than a cure – a carefully thought through prenup drawn up with the benefit of independent advice has a fair prospect of being upheld by a court.

If you have any questions or concerns about prenuptial agreements, please call us on 0113 246 0055, leave us a comment below or drop us an e-mail.

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