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Are pre and post nups the height of fashion?
Article date: 14/01/2015
The ongoing divorce of one of Malaysia's wealthiest businessmen, whose estranged wife is reported to be seeking a £500m settlement, has put prenuptial agreements under the spotlight.
And while the case of Khoo Kay Peng, 74, the billionaire chairman of Laura Ashley, and wife Pauline Chai, 67, seems a million miles away from most of us, a leading West Midlands lawyer says 'prenups' are becoming more and more commonplace.
Philip Barnsley, Partner and head of family at Higgs & Sons, said: "What is becoming more noticeable with each passing month is that nuptial agreements are not just for those with assets like Ms Chai and Mr Peng.
"Instead, they are becoming more common for those wanting to engage in family asset protection planning, alongside other advice regarding their personal financial affairs."
Proposals unveiled earlier this year by the Law Commission recommend that prenuptial agreements should be legally binding in divorce settlements - but only after the needs of the separating couple and any children have been taken into account.
Philip added: "Prenuptial agreements can help document how couples would like their property to be divided in the unfortunate event of the breakdown of their relationship. The contents of such an agreement can vary widely depending on the individuals concerned and their circumstances, but often include provision for the division of property and maintenance.
"A post nuptial agreement is similar in that it is an agreement made between two parties dealing with provision for maintenance, children and division of property in the event of the relationship breaking down, but is entered into after marriage or civil partnership and prior to separation."
He said that not only is there more awareness of the need to put into place more effective and sensible asset protection measures, but for once the law appears to be in step.
"Whilst nuptial agreements are not yet legally binding in the UK, the Supreme Court has said that agreements should be given decisive weight in proceedings provided they were entered into freely, with both parties fully appreciating the implications and that the circumstances surrounding the making of the agreement were fair.
"The law is set for revolutionary change following the publication of the Law Commission report which has recommended that Parliament enact legislation to make binding what are referred to as 'qualifying' nuptial agreements. To date, there has been no official word from Parliament as to how these recommendations are perceived and no date for when they may be implemented, if indeed they ever are.
"But what does seem certain is that the days of prenups simply for the rich and famous are long gone."
Higgs & Sons is based in the heart of the Black Country at the Waterfront Business Park in Brierley Hill. The growing team now boasts 100 plus specialist lawyers available to support clients in a comprehensive range of business and private sectors.