Articles | Popping the prenup question

Sue Vandersteen head of the wills trusts and estates group provides an insight into the barriers facing individuals in organising their personal affairs during life and on death.

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Sue Vandersteen

Sue Vandersteen

So you have found the love of your life and they have found you.  The engagement ring has been picked out, her father has consented (although his/her mother still has reservations) but now for the really big question: what about the prenup?  Not a big issue if you are both as poor as church mice and are never likely to inherit but not all families are the same and sometimes the prenup question is driven not by the happy couple but by another family member.

As a lawyer who has worked with individuals in both their business and private capacities it never ceases to amaze me how people readily organise their business affairs but often pay little attention to matters closer to home in their private lives.

Human nature dictates that we can easily discuss with a business partner the "what ifs",  failure of the business, illness, death and bankruptcy and provide for such eventualities; but in our private lives we remain reluctant to plan for such matters.

Although it is sad, relationships can and do break down and individuals may fall into financial difficulties.  Ill health will in an increasingly elderly society affect many of us - some earlier than others.

So why not make plans for the certain event of death and the hopefully uncertain divorce or separation? Unromantic maybe but no one would disagree it is sensible to do so.

The simple fact is that where things go wrong without any consideration having being given to such matters the cost in terms of time and consequently legal costs can be huge and the human cost is so much more important when it affects you or your family.

So what can be done to plan and mitigate some of the more unpleasant circumstances that might one day affect you?

The good news is that lifetime and death planning could not be simpler.  If you have assets that you or indeed your family wish to protect in the event of divorce or insolvency then prenups and postnups are certainly worth considering.  These are not just the concern of married couples or civil partners however.  The principles of prenuptial agreements have always been with us in the guise of co-habitation/property sharing agreements which unmarried couples have always been able to enter into without the restrictions that until recently married couples and civil partners have faced in entering into such agreements.

The preparation of a Will would deal with matters on your death and together with lifetime planning could reduce and in some cases avoid inheritance tax that might otherwise become payable on your death if you were to die intestate as well as providing for those you wish to inherit and ensuring your personal effects are properly organised on death. 

In the event of illness or incapacity, the introduction of Lasting Powers of Attorney in 2007 means that it is now possible to provide for a relative or trusted friend or indeed solicitor to act as your attorney in circumstances where due to ill health or incapacity you are unable to manage your finances and property or if decisions need to be made in respect of your health and health care.

We are available to discuss all or any of these as they affect you and the benefit of taking a proactive step in planning for the future.