Monday morning saw the world react with delight as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle publically announced their engagement and plans to wed in spring 2018. The news was met with a frenzy of excitement and hysteria as anybody who is anybody including royals, politicians, and A-listers rushed to congratulate the pair who have been dating since summer 2016 on the highly anticipated news.
However, with recent statistics showing that as many as 42% of marriages end in divorce, a statistic Meghan Markle herself knows well, has anybody stopped to consider what will happen if the relationship breaks down in the future? Prince Harry alone has an estimated net worth of upwards of £33million, with Meghan’s net worth estimated at an equally impressive £5million, so how can the couple mitigate the risk and protect their personal wealth?
One suggestion is through a prenuptial agreement, the ultimate marital insurance. A prenuptial agreement (prenup), is a formal, written agreement entered into prior to marriage that establishes the property and financial rights of each spouse in the event of divorce. It sets out ownership of all their belongings and explains how it will be divided if the marriage breaks down. In addition to this, importantly it can also incorporate privacy clauses, restricting either party from airing their dirty laundry in public, a restriction that the royal family in particular would definitely benefit from. However, the big question is are pre-nups legally binding?
People often say that pre-nuptial agreements are “not worth the paper they’re written on” and granted, prenuptial agreements are not legally binding in the UK as ultimately the Courts retain discretion to see what is fair when dividing matrimonial assets. Having said that, they are still taken into account when considering the outcome of financial proceedings and can be very persuasive when it comes to a judge making a final financial decision.
The judgement of the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Radmacher v Granatino  supports this, as it established that pre-nuptial agreements would be given effect so long as they were entered into by both parties freely and with full appreciation of their consequences. This ruling has been further reemphasized in the case of WW v HW . However, even as case law continues to supports it, prenuptial agreements are still not legally binding and there has not been much development on the Law Commissions proposals of a “qualifying nuptial agreement” made in 2014.
So, what about further afield?
Interestingly, although prenups are not legally recognised in England and Wales, one jurisdiction in which they are legally recognised in is the United States of America, the home of Meghan Markle. However once again, although the agreements are recognised, this does not always mean that they will be enforced and there are very often circumstances, as is the case in the UK, were they may carry less weight. One of the main examples of this is where there is a child of the family born, so if Harry and Meghan have future plans for the pitter patter of tiny feet in the grounds of their Kensington Palace cottage, they may wish to take this into account.
The issues that are facing engaged couples like Harry and Meghan with considerable personal wealth are very real. It is more important than ever that couples protect themselves and plan ahead for the future, even if it is not the fairytale future that they dreamt of.
We wish Harry and Meghan all the best for the future but just in case it doesn’t end in a happily ever after, perhaps they should protect their interests.
If you require any advice in relation to the financial aspects of your relationship breakdown or any issue surrounding family law please contact Kathryn.firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone:
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