Postnuptial agreements are becoming more popular, but what exactly are they – and do they signal the end of romance? Contributing a guest blog, Louise Allard of Allard Bailey Family Law looks at recent developments
Most people have heard of a prenuptial agreement (prenup), but fewer have heard of her little brother the postnuptial agreement (postnup).
What is a postnuptial agreement?
A postnup is signed after the wedding. Like a prenup, it sets out the couple’s intentions for what will happen to their assets if they separate later. It should be entered into freely, couples should have the benefit of independent legal advice, and both parties should have a clear idea of the marital assets before they sign the agreement. They should also take professional advice to make sure they meet the necessary criteria.
Are we losing sight of romance? Why are more people considering postnuptial agreements now?
No one can deny that a postnup is a practical proposition, but being prepared doesn’t have to exclude romance. There is the story of some newlyweds signing their postnup at the wedding – straight after cutting the cake – to the cheers of their guests. That might be a step too far for some, but couples agreeing a postnuptial agreement might well be saving themselves a lot of unnecessary heartache and expense further down the line. Neither of which are very romantic!
When should I consider a postnuptial agreement?
Many of the couples Allard Bailey Family Law advise about prenups have separated and then reconciled. When re-starting their relationship, they’ve decided that they want to agree what would happen to assets if they separate again and this time there’s no way back.
They’ve seen how hard it is to make decisions when a relationship is breaking down, and how difficult it can be to think clearly when you’re hurt and angry. They’re savvy enough to realise that things can go wrong, and it’s better to reach an agreement while they’re enjoying the best of times, rather than wait until they’re going through the worst of times.
Some couples have simply seen friends and family go through a breakup and watched a seemingly happy couple embark on a long process of disagreement and litigation. They recognise that they never want to be in that situation and take steps to avoid a similar fate.
How long have postnuptial agreements been ‘trending’?
Postnups have only become a significant part of the legal landscape in recent years. They may not have been an option when some couples tied the knot, but now that they are an option, those couples are having ‘that conversation’.
Talking of ‘that conversation’, some couples find it difficult to broach the subject of a prenup before the wedding. There’s a lot to plan … it’s an easy conversation to avoid … it just didn’t come up. Once time has passed they may be able to bring up the subject of long-term financial planning, and a postnup might be part of the answer.
What other reasons are there for postnuptial agreements?
There’s a growing trend for parents to ask their children to consider a postnup. If a parent wants to ensure their wealth is left to their children and grandchildren, and not their daughter- or son-in-law, they might consider asking their children to agree a postnup as a condition of naming them as a beneficiary in their Will.
Another reason couples consider postnuptial agreements is that either one or both of them have been married before and they’ve either been through a difficult divorce, or they want to make sure their existing children benefit from their estate. It’s a practical solution to a problem that otherwise might cause worry and stress.
The overwhelming theme is one where couples have agreed that taking practical steps before separation provides both parties with security. The courts are increasingly recognising prenups and postnups as long as certain conditions are met, and that seems to be the reason for the increased uptake. There have always been good reasons for a postnup – but perhaps an increasing certainty of their validity is responsible for their rise in popularity.
Is it the end of romance? I don’t think romance will ever be out of date. Taking control of your life and your future can be liberating and allows you to enjoy the moment – romance can follow on from there.
Louise Allard is a solicitor and Director of Allard Bailey Family Law, a niche family law firm based in the heart of the legal district in London. www.allardbailey.com
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