Amid the exhilaration of pending nuptials, couples often overlook important legal 'housekeeping' matters that should be attended to prior to the big day. Here are two items to add to your 'to do' list:
But I already have a valid will, you say...
The law makes it very clear that upon saying 'I do', any current will that you have is instantly void. Section 18 of the Wills Act 2007 states that a 'will is revoked if the will-maker marries or enters a civil union' unless the will expressly states that it is made "in contemplation" of the marriage or civil union.
It doesn't matter if you haven't set a date, if marriage or civil union is on the agenda, you are wise to make an appointment with your lawyer to update your will to ensure it sets out your wishes and continues in force after your marriage or civil union.
Joint and separate property
The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 sets out how the property of married couples and civil union couples, and couples who have lived in a de facto relationship, is to be divided up when they separate or one of them dies. Once a relationship has passed the three year mark, the Act clearly states that all relationship property owned by a couple, unless specified otherwise, is to be shared 50/50 in the event of a separation or death.
How does one 'specify otherwise'?
If you have assets that you believe should be identified as yours, the only way this can be established is by entering into an agreement that contracts out of the act or, more simply put, an agreement signed by both of you that makes it clear that the rule of equal sharing in the act does not apply to specific assets. This type of agreement needs to be prepared by your lawyer with each party being independently legally advised prior to signing.
Although contracting out agreements can be entered into at any stage of a relationship, tidying up these matters early on in a relationship is prudent, but even more importantly when a relationship is crystalised by a marriage or civil union. Don't wait for the three year mark as the act can apply earlier in some circumstances.
The best honeymoon is one where you can relax and bask in the memory of your special day. To ensure that this blissful moment is free from worries, take the time now to talk to your lawyer to ensure that matters such as your wills and property matters are sorted.
Enjoy your happy day.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.