Could nuptial agreements be on the rise for the over 65s?
The latest statistics on marriage rates published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicate a steep increase in the number of marriages amongst the over 65s age group. The ONS report, which examines the number of marriages that took place in England and Wales between 2009 – 2014, found that there was a 47% increase in the opposite-sex marriage rate among over 65s. The average age for getting married in 2014 was 37 for men and just under 35 for women.
Generally speaking, people who marry later in life usually have been married before and subsequently divorced or have been in a long-term relationship which has broken down. They are likely to have acquired assets over their lifetime including property, investments, pensions, inheritances and family heirlooms, and may well have children from previous relationships who may or may not be dependent on them. Consequently, people who marry later in life often have more complicated financial circumstances than those who marry before they are 30. The are also, however, more aware of the importance of retaining those assets to fund their retirement.
In circumstances such as these, people will often seek to protect their assets to ensure that suitable provision is made for any children from previous relationships, or simply to ensure that should they divorce, there is a division of assets which is fair to their current partner, but that also enables them to continue to reap the rewards of their efforts in their early years.
The best way to protect personal wealth against relationship breakdown is by entering into a carefully drafted pre-nuptial agreement prior to marriage, or a post-nuptial agreement following marriage. A nuptial agreement sets out exactly how assets should be divided and what future support each party will receive from the other, and makes it clear that certain property belongs to one party and will not be shared during the marriage or on any future divorce. It can also protect the financial interests of children from a previous marriage or relationship by ring-fencing certain assets for them. The existence of a professionally prepared nuptial agreement should save the uncertainty, time, money and stress of litigating the financial settlement in the future.
While nuptial agreements are not yet automatically legally enforceable in the UK and remain one of many factors that a judge will consider when presiding over a divorce, there are a number of steps that can be taken to ensure that the agreement is as binding as possible for both parties. These include making sure that the couple fully understand the implications of entering into the agreement and are doing so without undue pressure, making sure they have each had legal advice, and ensuring that the couple have disclosed their financial circumstances to each other in full. Provided the agreement meets the needs of the less wealthy party and any children, significant importance will be attached to it by a judge on divorce.
It can often be difficult to broach the topic of a pre-nuptial agreement. The concept can be considered to be unromantic at a time when you are in love and planning your wedding, and can be an added pressure which puts strain on your relationship. However, providing the conversations are dealt with in a careful and sensitive way, they can be a useful means of exploring attitudes towards financial matters, and planning your future together. Discussing financial issues are often the most difficult conversations to have with your partner, and dealing with these at the outset of the marriage can put in place a good foundation for good communication during the marriage. Being honest about your reasons for wanting a prenup can be a really positive step towards a strong marriage.
When marrying later in life, it is important to consider how you would provide for your spouse should you die before them. A will which mirrors the provisions of the nuptial agreement is essential to ensure that your spouse is not left in a precarious financial position on your death. The inheritance prospects of children and grandchildren can be protected in the nuptial agreement and mirrored in the will, to support and clarify what should happen to certain assets.
The team at Cripps are highly experienced in dealing with all aspects of wealth protection, including by way of nuptial agreements and through estate planning. If you would like to discuss this further, please contact Claire Tollefson on 01892 506191.
First published in the May edition of InsideKent.