Starting a New Chapter
Wedding fairs, notices in the paper and Facebook updates changing to 'in a relationship' or 'engaged' - it is the season for marriage proposals.
Valentine’s Day following hot on the heels of Christmas, two of the most popular times in the calendar for proposals, has seen many couples make the ultimate commitment. With the celebratory champagne flowing and excited chatter about a future together, it is not surprising that many newly engaged couples forget about the legal implications.
There are a number of issues to consider when tying the knot or moving in together prior to getting married; many of which you may not have considered. But, by putting safeguards in place you can plan and prepare for a future without the stress, cost and legal implications that can become all too familiar to me and my colleagues. Such situations, I am pleased to say, are avoidable and affordable if steps are taken at an early stage.
To ensure a happy future together without legal complications, here are my top five recommendations.
- These days many couples live together before walking down the aisle. A Cohabitation Agreement will help you set out in clear terms the basis of this arrangement. It apportions responsibility for bills and how, in the event of a separation, possessions shall be divided.
- If, like many couples, you are buying your first home together, you need to appoint an experienced conveyancer. Buying and selling property can be one of the most stressful experiences in life, so do not underestimate the value of a good local expert who will guide you through the process as painlessly as possible. On occasion, when purchasing property, you may be lucky enough to receive financial assistance from family members or you may have proceeds from a sale of a previous property or savings to put towards the purchase.
- In these circumstances it is wise to consider a Declaration of Trust, protecting the significant lump sum put down by one or both parties or to simply record how the net sale proceeds of the property should be divided if it is beyond the usual 50-50 split.
- It is important to note a Declaration of Trust is likely to be considered void upon marriage and cannot be relied upon after this point, so you may want to consider updating this to Pre-Nupital Agreement prior to the big day. No longer exclusive to celebrities, there is a growing trend for people to enter into these agreements before marrying; essentially agreeing how assets should be divided in the event of a divorce.
- And finally, Wills are important documents at any time, but particularly so when marrying and reconfiguring finances and family commitments. They can save you and those closest to you considerable stress and upset when resolving issues in your death.
It may seem unromantic but it is important to let the head rule the heart, just for a while. I believe such precautions are as important as Life Assurance and Critical Illness cover. They enable you to prepare now for something which may happen in the future. So, talk to a Solicitor and discuss the best way for planning and securing your future.