Ten years ago it probably would have been inconceivable to think that our every thought, action, foodstuff and social activity would be willingly broadcast for the whole world to see and discuss on something called social media.

It was not that long ago that the English were world-renowned for reticence and reserve such that if you sat in the same railway carriage with people year-in year-out, you did not speak to them because you had “not been introduced”. We seem to have lost our reserve, and are happy to put “everything out there”.

One area where we are still a little bit more squeamish is in relation to protecting our assets. Unbiased.co.uk has done research that shows that over 60% of us do not have a Will for example. I should guesstimate that maybe 95% of people do not have a Pre- or Post-Marital Agreement either. This is particularly surprising given that we live in a society in which 42% of marriages end in divorce and second / third marriages are rife. Let’s face it, divorce is expensive and it can also become quite unpleasant on occasion. One could say that a first marriage that ends in divorce is an unfortunate risk that one runs. Going into a second marriage, however, without taking sensible precautions to protect the assets that you have preserved from your first marriage, is not so much a calculated risk as an outright gamble with your financial future.

If we are happy enough to tell the world and his wife what we ate for breakfast on Facebook, we should be able to discuss with our prospective spouse the fact that we would like to preserve our pre-marital assets in the event that our relationship does not work out. We still seem to hold back on this and feel as if it is unromantic, pushy or too “in-your face”. This old-fashioned British reserve can cost dear however. A Pre- or Post-Marital Agreement can cost less than a gym membership for a year whereas a divorce can cost as much as a very decent brand new car.

If you owned your house long before the marriage, there is no reason why you should not ask for credit for this in a Pre-Marital/Post-Marital Agreement. Those shares your great-grandfather left you in his Will when you were 10, they should be ring-fenced for you. You owned them before you even met your partner after all. Farmers own land which has sometimes been in their family for several generations. A sure-fire way to ensure it remains within the family is to write it up in an agreement and say you want to retain it if the worst comes to the worst, and a divorce ensues.

Perhaps if more people could follow the advice of the Spice Girls and told each other what they really, really want, divorce lawyers like me might become as rare as the Dodo.

Elizabeth A Hodder

Solicitor and Collaborative Lawyer

Partner and Head of Gross & Co Family Department

Tel:  01284 763333

Email:  eah@gross.co.uk


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