Considerations before getting married or forming a civil partnership

Protect your own property now and reduce the risk of fighting over it - and losing it - if your marriage or civil partnership fails.

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Consider a pre-nuptial/pre-civil partnership agreement

A pre-nuptial/pre-civil partnership agreement is an agreement made between two people before they get married or enter into a civil partnership. It sets out the property and money that belong to each person before the marriage or civil partnership and which is intended to remain the property of that person after the ceremony and even after the marriage/civil partnership itself.

Lots of people think these agreements aren’t valid in the UK but, as long as the guidelines set out below are followed carefully, there is no reason why your pre-nuptial agreement can’t be legally valid.

Follow these simple rules when entering a pre-nuptial agreement. 

1. Be frank and honest with each other, don't hide or fail to mention property or money that you own or might own in the future.

2. Give yourselves plenty of time to agree the terms, don't rush them or leave it to the last minute - it should be completed and signed at least three weeks before the ceremony.

3. You should both want to have a pre-nuptial agreement and neither of you should feel "forced" into making the agreement by the other or by family.

4. The agreement should be fair to both of you. You are trying to save the unpleasantness of a messy divorce or dissolution, so you are looking for an agreement that would probably be acceptable to a divorce or dissolution judge.

5. You must both consider taking legal advice before making this agreement and at the very least make sure that you fully understand what you are agreeing to. You must believe that the agreement treats you both fairly. If you are not taking legal advice you need to be very sure in your own mind why.

6. Your pre-nuptial agreement should deal with finances and property only. This is not the document in which you record your housekeeping rota; if you do, you risk the agreement being thrown out by the court.

7. Make sure that you check over your agreement regularly to make sure it is still right for you both.

8. And finally, remember, your pre-nuptial agreement is confidential.

If there are any major changes in your circumstances this can affect the agreement.

A major change could be losing your job or long-term illness, or having children. Major changes like these will probably mean that you have to make a fresh agreement.

Review your will 

If you die without making a new will you will die 'intestate' and everything you own – your 'estate' – will pass according to the rules of Intestacy and not in accordance with your wishes. Your new spouse or civil partner is likely to get the lion’s share of your estate.

Consider either a will in "contemplation of marriage" before you marry or enter into a civil partnership (the best option) or make a new will as soon as you can after your marriage or civil partnership. Make your Will in contemplation of marriage or civil partnership.

Don't forget tax free gifts on marriage or civil partnership 

Finally, remind your parents that a marriage or civil partnership gift of £5,000.00 can be made free of inheritance tax and grandparents can give you £2,500.00 under the same rules.

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Create your Prenuptial agreement

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