The Edinburgh firm, which specialises in a range of family law expertise, has highlighted how high-profile cases involving pre-nuptial agreements – including the divorce of German heiress Katrin Radmacher – have pushed pre-nups into the public consciousness so that they are no longer viewed as the sole preserve of millionaires or Hollywood stars.
And it adds that this increased exposure has led to growing numbers of couples approaching solicitors and family law firms in Scotland to enquire about how to set up a pre-nup before they marry.
Fiona Rasmusen, partner at Gibson Kerr, said: “In the past, pre-nuptial agreements were usually viewed with a lot of caution and skepticism, as they were seen as an admission that you thought something was going to go wrong with your marriage. People thought that only wealthy Americans and Hollywood stars made pre-nups in their marriages, because they were the ones who would be worried about what happened to their fortunes.
“However, there’s been a bit of a change in attitude recently and financial planning is now being seen as a vital part of any marriage preparation. The economic conditions have been fairly gloomy and many people have ongoing money worries, so it makes sense for them to be cautious when it comes to getting married.
“The result is that we’re getting far more calls about pre-nups now than we ever have done – mostly from people who are concerned about their personal finances and what will happen if the worst occurs in their marriages.”
The firm is advising couples to talk to each other about the option of making pre-nups well in advance of their wedding date, so they have plenty of time to decide if these agreements are right for their situation.
Among the examples highlighted when pre-nups can be beneficial include: “ring-fencing” or preserving inherited wealth for future generations, safe-guarding any assets acquired before your marriage and protecting private business assets.
Fiona adds: “As many people are getting married in middle age and often have money or savings that they are bringing into their union, they want to make sure that this wealth is properly dealt with rather than just going straight into the marriage pot.
“Partners may have children from a previous partnership and they want to ring-fence an inheritance for them, or else they may have savings built up from their own business.
“Also, people are realising the stark reality that one in three marriages tends to end in divorce and they want to make sure that they have planned for every eventuality – even the break-up of their relationship. It’s not the nicest thing to consider when you’re planning for a wedding, but by sitting down and discussing how the agreement will help protect both your assets, as well as avoiding uncertainty in the future, you will be making a positive rather than a negative decision.
“If you think a pre nup is right for you, it is very important to make arrangements early so that things are not left to the last minute just before the wedding. A spouse who is asked to sign a pre nup at the last minute may be able to argue later that it was unfair due to the pressure of the situation.
“Another important thing to remember is that you should not try to set up a pre-nup yourself. Although there are many websites offering knock-down rates for “DIY” pre-nups and it’s tempting to try and save money by trying to fill in the paperwork yourself – particularly if you have the expense of a wedding to think about – it is not worth the risk.
“You shouldn’t fall for the cheap option when securing your future. Always get legal advice from a reputable family law expert, who will be able to give you impartial advice on whether such an agreement is right for you and will show you the correct way of drafting a prenuptial agreement.”
Gibson Kerr is a family-run law firm that has been established in Edinburgh for more than 100 years. It has an excellent reputation for providing a comprehensive family law service encompassing both property and personal law, including powers of attorney, executries and wills.