Whether you are a royalist or not, news about Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, has been hard to avoid this past couple of weeks.
Following their announcement that they would like to become financially independent, explore new international roles and split their time between the UK and Canada, the Queen was quick to call an “emergency family summit” to manage the situation.
The media frenzy that ensued has shone a spotlight on what has been described as the royal family “firm”, with a brand, reputation and significant assets to manage, as well as changing roles within the family – and all with an international angle.
Silk Family Law deals with lots of family conflict, particularly where there are complex assets to negotiate. The tried and tested strategies we use are focused on minimising acrimony and help us to achieve agreement in the most efficient way.
Protecting inherited assets through nuptial agreements
We are often asked to advise where families wish to ensure the family business or “dynasty” built up by previous generations is protected for future generations.
Pre and post nuptial agreements can be an important part of the family protection plan and something which we see growing in popularity for our clients. They can be used to “ring-fence” and protect assets which engaged couples have built up or inherited before marriage. Or they can ensure that assets which are later passed to them by their family – which could be property, land or business assets – are secured for future generations.
The importance of good communication
As we have seen in the case of Harry and Megan, talking about these important issues of generational succession – when new family members are welcomed in by way of marriage – is important. Whilst the Queen may have preferred her grandson consult the family before his and his wife’s surprise announcement, she didn’t hesitate to call a family meeting at the earliest opportunity afterwards.
Talking and agreeing a plan before any conflict arises, helps to ensure everyone’s needs are met and can avoid much unhappiness, stress and costs later on.
Cohabitation agreements and nuptial agreements for blended families
Cohabitation agreements and nuptial agreements can be a really helpful way of planning for families, especially nowadays when many more couples are part of “blended” families with children from previous relationships coming together as part of the new family. Parents can plan ahead before they marry their new partner to agree what will happen to their own, and later jointly owned, assets, before the big day.
If, however, plans are not made in advance and the couple separate without any agreement in place, we have the expertise and professional connections to find creative ways of de-escalating the tension which separation can cause in families – particularly where older or adult children may have their own views as to the best outcome for the family as a whole. We can work with trained mediators, counsellors and arbitrators to assist all parts of the family work together to find an overall solution.
And if all else fails and, unlike Harry and Megan, there is to be no agreed solution, we have the best team of lawyers to deal with any litigation. Like the Royal Family, however, most families would prefer to try and agree matters and that is where our focus will be throughout.
Blog post by Silk Family Law partner, Teresa Davidson.