How Common is it to Write a Prenup in the UK

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Catrin, UK Solicitor
13/03/2024 ● 3 minutes
Pren­ups are com­monly used to pro­tect assets ac­quired before mar­riage or to cla­ri­fy fin­an­cial ex­pect­a­tions during the mar­riage. This is be­com­ing a handy tool for couples in the UK to pro­tect their in­terests as they enter into mar­riage, making sure every­one's on the same page from the start.

A prenup, short for pren­up­tial agree­ment, is es­sen­tially a fin­an­cial plan you and your part­ner make before you marry. This legal doc­u­ment gen­er­ally out­lines how assets, debts, and income will be di­vided in the event of di­vorce or sep­ar­a­tion.

The Grow­ing Trend of Pren­up­tial Agree­ments in the UK

Pren­ups are quickly be­com­ing a go-to for couples across the UK, not just the rich and famous. In fact, Co-op Legal Ser­vices re­ported a whop­ping 70% in­crease in prenup in­quir­ies for 2023 from the pre­vi­ous year, show­ing that more and more people are em­bra­cing them.

From second-time spouses to middle-income fam­ilies, people from all walks of life are de­cid­ing to enter into pren­up­tial agree­ments before saying "I do." As the scep­ti­cism fades, pren­ups are now seen as smart plan­ning for a secure future to­geth­er, rather than im­ply­ing a lack of trust.

Common Fea­tures of Pren­ups

Pren­ups come in all shapes and sizes, tail­ored to fit the unique needs of every couple. But what does a prenup do?

Here's a quick look at what pren­ups usu­ally cover:

  • Assets and Debts: They can detail who gets what, from prop­erty to sav­ings, and how any debts are handled.
  • In­her­it­ance and Gifts: Pren­ups can pro­tect assets you've re­ceived or will in­her­it, keep­ing them sep­ar­ate from shared mar­it­al prop­erty.
  • Business Own­er­ship: En­tre­pren­eurs often seek pro­vi­sions in the prenup to pro­tect their business in­terests, or to handle the di­vi­sion of a shared business in the event of a split.
  • Spousal Sup­port: Though a bit touchy, pren­ups can out­line ar­range­ments for spousal sup­port, set­ting clear ex­pect­a­tions from the start.

It may come as a sur­prise, but pren­up­tial agree­ments aren't yet auto­mat­ic­ally bind­ing in the eyes of the law here in the UK. With that said, they are gen­er­ally re­spec­ted by the courts provided they meet cer­tain con­di­tions es­tab­lished by the Su­preme Court and re­viewed by the Law Com­mis­sion.

Es­sen­tially, it’s im­port­ant to note that the courts have the dis­cre­tion to over­ride them if they are con­sidered unfair or un­reas­on­able at the time of di­vorce.

So, for a prenup to be re­spec­ted by a court, it needs to tick a few im­port­ant boxes:

  1. It needs to be entered into will­ingly by both in­di­vidu­als.
  2. Every­one sign­ing the agree­ment needs to fully grasp what it means for them.
  3. The terms have to be reas­on­able and just.
  4. The agree­ment must also meet all legal re­quire­ments to be con­sidered a valid con­tract.
  5. The prenup should be fi­nal­ised no later than 28 days before the couple gets mar­ried.
  6. There must be trans­par­ency re­garding each party's broader fin­an­cial situ­ation.
  7. Legal guid­ance should have been provided to both parties.
  8. The agree­ment should not dis­ad­vantage any chil­dren from the re­la­tion­ship.
  9. The es­sen­tial needs of both parties should be ad­equately ad­dressed in the agree­ment.

Meet­ing these cri­ter­ia helps ensure that a prenup can stand up in court, of­fer­ing couples some as­sur­ance that their pre-mar­riage fin­an­cial plan­ning can be en­for­ced.

💡 Pren­ups are agree­ments made before mar­riage, set­ting the fin­an­cial ground­work up­front. Post­nups are sim­il­ar agree­ments made after you're already mar­ried, al­low­ing for up­dates or changes based on new life events.

Draft­ing a Prenup: Guid­ance and Myth-Busting

Think­ing about draft­ing a prenup? Great idea! It’s a pro­act­ive step to­wards en­sur­ing both you and your part­ner are on the same page fin­an­cially, and con­trary to pop­u­lar belief, it doesn’t imply that you’re loaded, don’t trust your part­ner, or that you’re bet­ting against your mar­riage.

Anyone with per­son­al assets, debts, or in­her­it­ance con­cerns can be­ne­fit - no matter how small they are. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Open Com­mu­nic­a­tion: Start with an honest dis­cus­sion about your fin­ances. Un­der­stand­ing what each of you is bring­ing into the mar­riage, and how you'd like to handle things, is a solid found­a­tion for your agree­ment.
  • Think About the Future: Don’t just focus on cur­rent assets, but po­ten­tial future ones, too. Got a family business, or ex­pect­ing a hefty in­her­it­ance? Factor those in.
  • Fairness is Key: A fair prenup pro­tects both part­ners, re­flect­ing mutual re­spect and care. It’s not about “win­ning” at the ex­pense of the other party, but en­sur­ing you're both looked after.
  • Get Legal In­de­pend­ent Legal Advice: This one's cru­cial. Have a lawyer look over your prenup to make sure it's leg­ally sound, it re­flects your wishes ac­cur­ately, and that you un­der­stand the im­plic­a­tions of sign­ing the prenup. Note, the other party named in the prenup (i.e. your part­ner) will need to do the same.
  • Sign the Prenup: You will sign the prenup in front of your own in­de­pend­ent so­li­citor. Your so­li­citor will then sign a cer­ti­fic­ate of in­de­pend­ent legal advice, which will be in­cluded in the prenup and ba­sic­ally con­firms that they’ve dis­cussed with you the nature and effect of the prenup and that it was signed freely without any fear, threats, com­pul­sion or in­flu­ence from the other party named in the prenup or any other person.
  • Update as Needed: Life changes, and so can your prenup. Review it every year and adjust as ne­ces­sary to fit your evolving cir­cum­stances.

💡 Re­mem­ber, a prenup is there to pro­tect you both and can ac­tu­ally strengthen your re­la­tion­ship by en­cour­aging trans­par­ency and trust.

Se­cur­ing Your Fin­an­cial Future with a Prenup

Whet­h­er you're look­ing to pro­tect assets, cla­ri­fy fin­an­cial re­spons­ib­il­it­ies, or simply want peace of mind, a prenup can be a wise step for any couple.

If you decide to go ahead with one, make sure that it ticks all of the legal boxes so that you have the best chance of it being en­force­able if you need to use it.

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