Spring is almost upon us, and signs for wedding fairs inviting couples to choose the perfect setting for the big day have gone up all over Devon and Cornwall. Few things are as exciting as planning a wedding but engaged couples would be wise to consider the financial connotations of tying the knot, especially if it is a second marriage or if there is a family business or inheritance at stake.

Increasingly, prudent spouses-to-be are using prenuptial agreements to formally agree how their assets and property should be divided should their marriage not work out. Fiona Yellowlees, a Partner in the Family Law department at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot and Sidmouth, explains what a prenuptial agreement is and how it works.

A prenuptial or premarital agreement is a formal written document which allows couples to decide for themselves how they wish their belongings, including property, business interests and other assets, to be split if the marriage does not work out.

Nobody likes to think of splitting up when they are about to get married but a well-drafted prenuptial agreement can provide some peace of mind for both parties before they start their new life together. This is particularly so if assets would be tricky to split; one party wants to ring-fence a business or inherited wealth; or either party has children from a former relationship who they want to provide for.

Since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Radmacher v Granatino, prenuptial agreements can now be legally recognised under UK law, although the court still has the power to disregard the agreement if it is deemed unfair – particularly if the terms would disadvantage any children of a marriage.

The court will apply the three-stage test outlined in Radmacher when assessing whether an agreement is fair: This requires that the:

  • the agreement was freely entered into;
  • the parties fully understood the implications of their agreement; and
  • the prevailing circumstances are considered.

There are certain recommended steps which must be observed when entering into a prenuptial agreement if it is to be endorsed by a court at a later stage. It is, therefore, strongly advisable to seek legal advice from a specialist family lawyer before you sign on the dotted line. They can check that everything is above board from a legal perspective by ensuring that:

  • each party has legal advice – from different solicitors to avoid accusations of conflict of interest – before the agreement is entered into;
  • all the terms and their implications are understood;
  • the agreement is freely entered into;
  • the terms of the agreement are fair according to the Radmacher test;
  • both parties have fully disclosed all their assets; and
  • the agreement is signed at least 21 days before the wedding.

As it can take some time to negotiate the detail at WBW we recommend starting this process at least 6 months before the wedding date so that it can be concluded and safely put away so that the last minute preparations can be enjoyed.

For further information, please contact Fiona Yellowlees in the Family Law team on 01626 202415 or email fionayellowlees@wbw.co.uk. WBW Solicitors has offices in Newton Abbot, Paignton, Torquay, Bovey Tracey, Exeter, Launceston, Exmouth, Sidmouth and Honiton.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.