What to do after getting engaged: the serious part

04 Jan 2018

From pre-nuptial agreements to individual assets, here are six key things to do before you say "I do"

While getting engaged is one of the most memorable and exciting moments in life, there are also some serious implications to consider. Once married, there is more to be shared than just your surname and with this comes new responsibility. 

Bryan Scant – a family solicitor at Coffin Mew – outlines his six top tips for those who have just announced their engagement and want to get the more serious matters out the way before the fun begins. 

1. Keep pre-marital assets separate

That inheritance from Aunt Agatha in your ISA? Keep it there. If you mix it with joint assets or spend it on the honeymoon or paying the other half’s debts, then it will be difficult to retrieve if the marriage ends. While you may be of the thinking that 'what's mine is yours', this isn't a realistic outlook when it comes to savings and similar assets, so set the boundaries to protect you if the worst happens. 

2. Buying a property together but one of you is putting the deposit down?  

Protect it with a declaration of trust. Not watertight, but without something that sets out that one of you made a great contribution than the other claiming it back on divorce is much harder. 

3. Decide if you are going to combine your finances

Some suggest that on divorce each should leave with what they have, irrespective of whether that is more favourable to one party. This is easier to argue if you can show that you have maintained separate finances throughout the marriage. If you have always paid into a joint account and never had individual accounts, dividing assets unequally is harder. 

4. Update wills

Marriage revokes an existing will and cohabitees/fiancées don’t have an automatic right to inherit should something happen to one of you before the wedding. Ensure that your will clearly specifies you are making it in advance of getting married, otherwise it could still be revoked. 

5. Talk about having children

Many marriages get into difficulties because one party wants children and the other doesn’t, or they can’t agree on how to bring up the children (e.g. should they go to private school?). Make these decisions now to avoid disputes later. 

6. Consider a pre-nup

Do not see a pre-nuptial agreement as a bad omen or a precursor to a failed marriage, they can save months of arguments and thousands of pounds worth of legal fees. Consider it an insurance policy should the marriage end in divorce. 

Finally, have fun. When the serious conversations have been had, you can continue to enjoy the excitement that planning a wedding brings. 

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