The To Do's Before the I Do's
THE TO DO’S BEFORE THE I DO’S
Marriage is about more than just the loving union of two people—it’s also about the union of financial assets and liabilities, and families. Or, as some like to say, it’s about halving your rights and doubling your duties.
There are good reasons why you should consider signing a Financial Agreement before you marry or commit yourself to a de-facto relationship. However, not everyone needs a Financial Agreement. Quite apart from the legal issues (which you can discuss with a solicitor), the answer to this question will depend on a number of practical considerations, as follows:
- Whether you’ve discussed it with your partner: Even if you're comfortable with the idea of a Financial Agreement, don't assume your partner will be. This is because you're saying to your partner “I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you, but I'm not sure you’re (to coin my dad’s use of the term) a good sort”. (Dad compares prospective partners to prospective racehorses – once he said he liked my brother’s first girlfriend because “she had good legs, like a racehorse”). Back to the point - you really have to handle the conversation with delicacy. By the way, delicacy does not mean throwing the final version of the Agreement to your partner with a pen on the way to the chapel (yes, that has happened before), not just because the ink might come out of the pen and spray all over someone’s shiny new dress or suit…
- Size of the asset pool: The exercise of having a solicitor draft a Financial Agreement that is valid and enforceable will put you to some degree of expense. Whether it makes practical sense to incur the expense will depend in some measure on the asset pool. Did you come into the relationship with significant assets relative to your partner which you seek to largely retain if the relationship breaks down? Or do both of you come into the relationship with significant assets accumulated before the relationship which you each seek to retain if the relationship breaks down? If the answer to both questions is yes, you should give serious consideration about possibly entering into a Financial Agreement.
- Previous relationships: Have you just emerged from costly and protracted Family Court litigation with your former partner regarding division of your assets? It would not be surprising if you have made a personal resolution not to go through it a second time, and so, you may be a candidate for a Financial Agreement – that is, if you are ready to even consider your next relationship! If not, at the least, you can be a shining beacon of wisdom to others that in some circumstances it may be less stressful and less costly to sign a Financial Agreement at the outset, rather than spending more time and more money at the other end (at your wits’ end) over who gets the cookie jar.
- Your respective ages: If both you and your current partner are over the age of 50 you are likely to have more significant assets than younger couples. If you are close to retirement age you will likely have accumulated assets that you want to leave to your children and grand-children. Therefore, older couples often have more to protect than younger couples. If you are considering entering into a Financial Agreement on this basis, you should also have your Wills reviewed as part of the exercise.
At the end of the day, no matter how many times you spray the document with perfume or how many candles you light at the time of signing, or, even if you put a big dirty lipstick kiss next to your signature on the document (that’s what I would do), Financial Agreements are unromantic. But, they are practical.
Whether or not you put things down in writing, if you and your partner are contemplating marriage or a de facto relationship, you should really be talking about all of the issues that a Financial Agreement might cover. In the words of James Holt McGavran, “There’s a way of transferring funds that is even faster than electronic banking. It’s called marriage”.
Well, that’s the advice you will get from a Family Lawyer, anyway.
If you were to ask my dear Yia Yia for her opinion as to what is the biggest to-do before you say “I do”, she would tell you, if you are a female, (and I know this because I was told this from about the age of 7), that it is to learn how to cook, because “(Sophiamou), it’s very important that you know how to cook nice meals for your husband”. Did my Yia Yia just get high fives from men all across the nation?
I do hope your Yia Yia has since said to the boys in your family to learn to cook, to operate the dishwasher, washing machine and to clean! In this day and age equality should stretch into all areas of life. I also sincerely hope that she told you to understand where the shared finances are and to never sign a document your husband puts before you without knowing what it is. Friends of mine have been left high and dry with no understanding of their finances, never paid a bill in their life, don't know if they have any super and so on. And been left responsible for debt they did not know they had signed for.
Otherwise a very interesting blog - I can see how the romance disappears but if someone is open and honest with you then they will see the sense in it.
Thank you for your feedback, Pippa. Unfortunately, we also often see situations where someone has signed off on a document that they did not read or understand, which has serious repercussions. Fortunately, the law in relation to Financial Agreements requires both parties to obtain independent legal advice as to the advantages and disadvantages of the Financial Agreement prior to signing.