The seasons play a surprisingly strong role when it comes to major decisions around family life and relationships.

I have found that the festive period is a peak time for couples getting married or deciding to divorce. Indeed, recent wedding surveys show that up to 40% of all engagements take place between December and February, with Christmas Day being the most popular day to propose, followed by Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, and Valentine’s Day.

Prenups the best Christmas present you can buy your children

It is easy to see why couples use this time of celebration to pop the question, with the focus then turning to the wedding plans. There are endless things to think about when planning a wedding – choosing a venue, setting a date, setting a budget, compiling a guest list, choosing your wedding attire, booking the entertainment and planning a honeymoon. It is no wonder that few couples even contemplate broaching the subject of what might happen to their finances in the event of a future separation or divorce. But for many, a prenuptial agreement is an essential consideration before the big day.

Is a prenup worth it?

There is a common misconception that prenups aren’t worth the paper they are written on as they are not legally enforceable and are simply a tool for the rich and famous to manage multimillion-dollar affairs. The truth is that prenups are relevant to any couple getting married who may be concerned about protecting their assets. This is particularly so for those families whose children are expecting to receive future gifts or inheritance.

I come across many families, in particular those within the farming and agricultural communities, who wish to preserve wealth by passing assets down the generations to their children as part of inheritance tax and succession planning on retirement. This requires careful planning, as their children may be in settled relationships themselves, engaged to be married or planning a family of their own.

Are prenups unromantic?

Prenups are always going to be an uncomfortable subject to raise before marriage. Many have preconceived notions and baggage about prenups, that they are ‘unromantic’ or ‘pessimistic’, but this overlooks their true value. It is an opportunity to have an open and honest discussion about your future expectations and hopes in the marriage. The existence of a prenup can provide everyone with certainty and avoid a potentially costly and acrimonious legal battle should the marriage fail.

Advice for prenups

If you are already engaged, you need to be discussing the prenup as a priority so it can be put to bed before the other wedding plans. It should not be left until the eleventh hour. Presenting your partner with a prenup a week before the wedding as a fait accompli is not going to work – it will likely cause anger, and stress and be deemed invalid if there is evidence of duress or undue pressure. Both parties need proper time to reflect on their future objectives, and financial security and to take legal advice.

Choose your time carefully. Find a calm, neutral environment where everyone feels comfortable. This will help you to work out any issues in a measured and collaborative manner.

Be open and direct

If the main purpose of the prenup is to protect family gifts or inheritances, say so. This will help your partner to understand the reason for a prenup. It shows that the prenup is not personal, but for the wider benefit of all concerned and is intended to leave you both with certainty should the worst happen. Indeed, marriage contacts are commonplace in many other European countries without the same stigma.

Be fair

Prenups work well when the overriding objective is to achieve a fair outcome for both parties and you have each other’s best interests at heart. This is something that should be discussed in conjunction with taking legal advice, as courts will only uphold a prenup if it is fair having regard to your overall financial circumstances.

Offer to pay for the prenup

 If you are the financially stronger party or have assets you wish to protect, offer to pay for the prenup. This will likely include the cost for your partner to obtain separate legal advice, however, it is a gesture of goodwill that shows you also have your partner’s needs at the forefront of your mind.

The perceived expense should not be a stumbling block when considering whether to enter into a prenup. The cost of a prenup varies from case to case, depending on the complexity and assets involved. In many cases, the cost of a prenup pales in comparison to the other costs of the wedding. With this in mind, should one of your children or family members pop the question this Christmas, assisting them to spend money on a prenup may yet be the best present they can get.

For further information on prenups, get in touch.