Did you say ‘Yes’ this Valentine’s Day?

14 February 2023

Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world on the 14th of February and is widely considered to be the most romantic day of the year. In Wales, Valentine’s Day  closely follows St. Dwynwen’s Day. Celebrated earlier in the year on the 25th of January, the date celebrates the Welsh patron saint of lovers, giving the people of Wales another reason to celebrate their loved ones.

During these celebrations of love, it is no surprise that many romantics use the occasion to pop the big question. Statistics across the UK show that Valentine’s Day is a clear winner for the most popular day of the year to get engaged, with over 8% of proposals occurring during this holiday.

Whilst an engagement is an agreement of devotion and shared love, the marriage itself is the legally sanctioned union of two people. Alongside marriage, there are specific considerations that need to be taken into account, professional legal guidance can be highly beneficial during this time.

What are Prenuptial agreements? Do we need them?

Within the UK, a prenuptial agreement is a legal document that is drawn up by couples before their marriage. The purpose of the agreement is to define how the combined assets are divided between the parties in the event of divorce and can also outline who is responsible for the property and finances during the marriage.

‘Prenups’ are typically used where one partner already has or is in line to acquire significantly more assets than the other, for example, if an individual already owns a property or business or has a large inheritance, or perhaps where one or both parties has children from a previous relationship.

Whilst a prenup can often seem like a pessimistic approach to marriage, it clarifies any concerns surrounding the distribution of assets following the breakdown of a relationship. This can make the break quick and painless, preventing complicated legal conflicts over particular assets.

However, there are certain requirements to make a prenup as binding as possible, for example it is important that it be concluded no later than 28 days before the wedding, and taking advice from a legal advisor is essential.

How is property ownership affected by marriage?

A Declaration of Trust is another legal document that provides evidence of an agreement over the distribution of assets. Whilst similar to a prenup, this particular document is used in relation to the ownership and management of property.

The agreement is typically used in property sales where one individual may have paid a larger deposit or contributed a higher percentage of the monthly mortgage payments. In the event of the dissolution of a relationship, the agreement will allow the parties to divide the equity from the property  although the divorce courts do not have to be bound by this agreement and have many factors to take into account when deciding on a fair distribution of the assets.

Taking on step-parent responsibilities

Where children from a previous relationship are involved, couples must consider the implications of their marriage on their children. As a prominent figure who is likely to be involved in the upbringing of the child, the new fiancé of a parent must be aware of the emotional and legal implications of their presence within the family dynamic.

Unlike biological parents, step-parents who are married into the family do not have any legal responsibilities for their partner’s child. This means that they do not have any duties to or powers over the child. In relation to decision-making and giving consent, this can become an obstacle if the step-parent is looking to become a caregiver for the child. One of the glaring restrictions of the limited parental responsibilities that step-parents won’t automatically have is the ability to give consent to medical treatment.

Step-parent parental responsibility cannot be acquired simply by marrying the biological parent of a child. Instead, a Parental Responsibility Agreement application must be completed, and consent must be obtained from all other parties with parental responsibility, including both biological parents. Alternatively, a court order providing that the child lives with the step-parent can be obtained, which will give that step-parent parental responsibility. Working with a solicitor may be beneficial during this process as there may be negotiations between the parties involved, such as one of the existing biological parents disagreeing with the application for parental responsibility.

What will my partner be entitled to after my death?

Many of us don’t like to think ahead to our deaths, especially when considering a future with the person we love. However, making these considerations enables us to make provisions for our loved ones and ensures that our final wishes are carried out.

It is important to note that marriage will invalidate an existing Will, unless it has been written with the union in mind. Therefore, if you are about to get married or have just said ‘I do,’ you might need to make a new Will.

If you fail to update or record a Will before your time of death, your estate is subject to the rules of intestacy. This will determine how the estate will be shared, not according to the wishes expressed within an invalid will. These rules determine, under most circumstances, that married or civil partners will inherit their spouse’s estate. This is subject to change when there are surviving children and grandchildren.

If the estate is worth up to £270,000 the spouse will inherit all of the estate. If the estate is worth over £270,000, the spouse will inherit this amount, plus half of any remaining portions of the estate over £270,000, the other half is then shared amongst surviving children and grandchildren. For example, for an estate worth £300,000, the spouse will inherit the full £270,000 as well as £15,000, leaving the remaining £15,000 to be inherited by the children.

Those who are not married or in a civil partnership are not considered for inheritance. Therefore, to ensure your new fiancé is considered within your Will, it can be sensible to make the relevant updates following a significant change in your relationship status.

Another factor that you may consider relevant when writing your Will is that the inheritance of an estate by a spouse may not incur inheritance tax (IHT). This occurs when the surviving partner is the sole beneficiary of the estate. However, if some of the estate is left to other beneficiaries, such as friends and other family members it could attract inheritance tax if the value of the estate reaches the nil-rate threshold.

Final Thoughts

At the time of your engagement, it is easy to be swept away by the romantics and excitement surrounding your eventual marital union. However, following the change in your relationship status, there are also legal implications that you’ll need to consider.

The merging of individuals also involves legal changes to your finances, assets, property ownership, children, and testament. To thoroughly address these changes, working with an experienced solicitor can be beneficial to ensure that you and your partner establish boundaries between shared and individual assets, or to integrate your blended family seamlessly. Contact Redkite Solicitors for more information today.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.