There is so much hype, excitement and anticipation in the lead up to the big day and so much work goes into planning every detail to ensure the day is perfect in every way. What perhaps doesn't get considered or planned out quite as well is what happens after the event, thinking ahead to the longer term and what changes in a legal and financial sense after you have said "I do".
By getting married or entering into a civil partnership, you are entering a completely new legal regime which means that you acquire certain rights and obligations towards your spouse or civil partner. Whilst that can be a draw itself to the commitment of marriage/civil partnership, it's important to take a step back and consider what you are each bringing to the relationship and what you would want out of it, should you ever decide to part ways. These day, pre-nups are commonplace and advisable, especially when one party has assets behind them in their own name or is likely to acquire substantial assets over the years. A pre-nup basically sets the boundaries and clarifies the ownership of assets should the parties ever decide to separate further down the line.
It's also important to consider your spouse or partner's position (and vice versa) if something were to happen to you. If one of you had an accident or became ill and were unable to work, where would that leave the other one in terms of your ongoing financial commitments or the ability to access the other's bank accounts in order to assist with their affairs and continue to pay the day to day bills and bigger expenses? These issues can be addressed by considering insurance - both critical illness and life cover and Powers of Attorney, which are invaluable should you ever find yourselves in that unfortunate situation.
Wills should also be considered. You may already have a Will in place which doesn't include your spouse or civil partner or you might not yet have a Will. Depending on the value of your estate, it's not necessarily the case that just because you are married, your spouse or civil partner would inherit the whole estate. To ensure that your estate passes in the most tax efficient way and to the person or people you would want to benefit, it's important to have properly drafted Wills in place. It's also important to ensure you update your beneficiary nomination for any death in service benefits you are entitled to through your employment and for any death benefits payable under your pension.
A legal and financial checklist for those about to get married or for newly weds would therefore look like:
- Consider a Prenuptial Agreement (Pre-Nup)
- Put in place Powers of Attorney
- Prepare or update your Wills
- Check that nominations for death in service and pension benefits are up to date
- Consider critical illness and life assurance cover
These can all be done quickly, allowing you to get back to the task in hand of enjoying your big day and the years ahead.