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Prenuptial Agreements: What is a Prenup and Do You Need One?

Find out everything you need to know about prenuptial agreements in the UK, plus some insight into some of the most memorable celebrity prenups, ever!

a couple lying with their heads next to each other surrounded by colourful confetti

Though the term is thrown around non-step when referring to famous celebrity weddings and marriages, many UK couples will find them asking what is a prenup and do you need one? Whilst the term prenuptial agreement is commonly associated with the rich and famous, prenups aren't just for mega millionaires with multiple homes and cars - plenty of us regular people find ourselves wanting one, too!

Announcing your engagement and planning a wedding is often the happiest time of your lives, and an exciting one filled with romance and anticipation of a long, happily married life ahead, so we totally get why the idea of asking your partner for a prenup  or even posing the question of whether or not you should consider one may be at the bottom of the wedding planning checklist. 

But if you've landed on this page, the thought has at the very least crossed your mind - so we're here to tell you everything you need to know about getting a prenup in the UK, how much prenups cost and how to talk to your partner about getting one. In our guide, we explain the many (very normal!) reasons many couples in the UK are choosing to sign a prenup before they marry.

Prenuptial Agreements: What is a Prenup and Do You Need One?

From protecting your business and future inheritance, to safeguarding your children's future and trusts, getting a prenup in the UK doesn't deserve the stigma it often receives. When you take the emotional aspect out of it, it's like getting insurance, but for your marriage.

With expert advice from professional lawyers and a relationship counsellor, we give you all the tools you need to both understand what a prenuptial agreement is, as well as how to approach the situation with your partner. It's way less daunting that you think and if it's something you really want to consider, you'll find everything you need to know here. 

What is a Prenup?

two grooms standing at the altar in white suits holding hands and being married by a male celebrant

Jessica Pitt, head of private wealth and family at law firm Foot Antsey explains, "A prenuptial agreement (or prenup) is a legal agreement that sets out how assets should be divided between a couple in the event of a divorce. It is completed before the wedding takes place."

Your assets include things like any property you own, savings that you’ve worked hard to build, investments and inheritance. Both you and your partner will need lawyers to advise you on the process and you will all sit down to draw up a legal agreement detailing what you each own and how you’ll split it if the marriage doesn’t work.

Do You Need a Prenup?

Prenups are not just for the rich and famous. The idea of a prenup is that prevention is better than cure - sort out your finances and assets now and you won’t have to worry about them should your marriage not work out. Having said that, they aren't for everyone either.

Jessica explains, "Prenups are mainly useful when one half of the couple has, or is likely to have a lot more money than the other - most commonly because of an inheritance or money they had made before the relationship begun. If you have assets that you wouldn't want shared equally with your spouse in the event of a divorce, you should consider getting a prenup to protect them."

Adding to this, Arron Bortoft, a director at law firm Vardags says, “Increasingly people are marrying later in their lives when they have already inherited family money, built up wealth independently or had children. In cases like this, a prenup can protect for lots of reasons, such as if you want to protect pre-marital assets, inheritance and family generated assets.”

There are plenty of sensible reasons to get a prenup even if you’re not a multimillionaire, such as if one of you owns a business, if one partner has personal debt that they want to guard against the other person being liable for, and especially if there are children from a previous relationship who you want to protect assets for.

Arron adds, “A prenup might go some way to avoid nasty surprises like finding you have to sell your company for your divorce settlement, or dissipate the inheritance you were building up for your children.” Even if you think your situation right now doesn’t make one necessary, it might one day so thinking about the future is important when considering if you need a prenup or not.

What Should Be Included in a Prenup?

A prenuptial agreement ultimately sets out what happens to yours and your partners assets in the event of a divorce - so there's a lot to consider including in your prenup. You need to consider your current financial and asset situation, as well as, your future one. 

In terms of specifics that can be included, Jessica advises, "Assets in a prenuptial agreement could include property, savings, pensions and income. It can also include anticipated future assets, like inheritances. Most commonly, a prenup will ringfence certain assets so that they aren't shared on a divorce but will leave everything else to be shared between a couple.

"A big misconception about prenups is that they might leave someone with nothing – that never happens. In fact, it wouldn't be enforceable if this was the case!"

In addition to current and predicted asses, Arron advises that couples should make provision for major changes in circumstances such as the birth of children, ill health, or inheritances in their prenup. He recommends “flexibility, to account for life’s uncertainties” and “review clauses and amendments to account for the stages in life such as babies and old age”.

He adds, “You never know what might happen in the future, and this has the double benefit of facilitating some very important conversations that any engaged couple should be having.”

Relate counsellor Barbara Bloomfield warns against using a prenup as a form of control by including an adultery clause. This is popular in some celebrity marriages, where a person gets a chunk of money if their partner cheats. Insisting on a clause like this is likely to offend a partner as it implies a lack of trust. You may be best to seek counselling to look at underlying issues instead of going down this path.

Is a Prenup Legally Binding?

A bride and groom at the altar laughing with one another as their celebrant stands by their side ready to marry them

Prenuptial agreements are not legally binding in the UK, however can be upheld by the court if they meet a certain criteria. Jessica says, "Prenups are not automatically legally binding, but if they meet the qualifying criteria detailed below, they will be upheld by the courts."

For a prenup to be upheld in a UK court, it needs to include: 

  • Wording explaining that the agreement was freely entered into and both parties understand the implications of the agreement.
  • That both parties have received (separate) legal advice.
  • That the agreement was made at least 28 days before the legal marriage was declared. 
  • That the agreement is fair, meets both parties' needs and does not prejudice any children.

Adding to this, Arron says, “One of the most important conditions for an enforceable prenup is that each party has had independent legal advice, and specifically when there’s a lot at stake, it’s worth securing good advice from an expert family lawyer."

How Much Does a Prenup Cost in the UK?

Jessica explains that the cost of a prenup can vary hugely, "As both parties must be advised by separate lawyers, this means the total cost will depend on the solicitor fees of each firm that is advising. As prenuptial agreements are always specifically tailored to the couple, there is no standard cost of a prenup and the fee will range depending on the complexity of the agreement and nature of the negotiations.

"For example, for the most straight-forward cases, a prenup will cost £5,000 or around that (plus VAT) for both parties' lawyers. However, with more complex cases, involving more protracted negotiation and ultimately, more hours of work, the costs can likely double."

Adding to this, Julie-Ann Harris, head of family law at solicitors Coffin Mew, explains that, "The cost of a prenup can go up to £10,000 plus VAT for cases including complex business arrangements, overseas elements and significant disclosure requirements.

“I’ve heard of prenups costing much more but it depends on where you go for your advice, the seniority of solicitor dealing with your agreement and the specific circumstances of your case. In addition, your case may necessitate expert advice from others, for example a barrister, accountant or surveyor so you should be prepared for extra costs if your case is more complicated."

How to Ask Your Partner for a Prenup?

A couple lying on the ground facing each other on their wedding day

If you are considering getting a prenup, it's important to talk to your partner about it first as you can't legally impose a prenup on anyone. As the lawyers advised above, a prenuptial agreement has to be freely entered by both parties and show fairness to all involved.

Asking your partner for a prenup can likely cause tension and upset as it's not a widely spoken about topic, especially here in the UK. The best way to approach the conversation is to know yourself exactly why you want one, and what you'd like covered. It's also important to remember that a knee-jerk reaction that the marriage is doomed before it's even begun is not uncommon.

People often view one person's need for financial security with a lack of trust for their partner and, if that's not the case, make sure you say that. Explain that it's a sensible and pragmatic financial move that will take the stress out of separation should that ever happen. 

Julie-Ann explains, “The most common reason people refuse to sign a prenup is their perception that they are not trusted by their partner who, on the flip side, fears they might risk their fortune without one! It’s a delicate situation and one that can be easily overcome with openness, honesty and transparency.”

Jessica explains, "Prenuptial agreements are like an insurance policy for your marriage - hopefully something that you will never have to rely on. But, if the unexpected happens, then the planning put into the agreement will save a lot of cost and worry in the event the relationship breaks down, giving security and protection on both sides."

Often when a marriage breaks down, emotions are running high and people can make rash and provoked decisions. Whilst the start of your marriage isn't the ideal time to discuss these things - when you think about it on a practical level, if one of you owns a business, has personal debt or children from a previous relationship, it makes sound financial sense. 

our engagement should be a happy time so it’s easy to see why you might want to avoid the unromantic and awkward topic of divorce. In reality, that period when you’re planning your future together is the best time to have these discussions.

Relationship counsellor Christine West says it makes perfect sense to draw up a pre-nuptial agreement and that it is not something that should be regarded as a sign of lack of faith in the partnership. She explains, “What most couples still don’t realise is that it’s relatively easy to marry, but horribly painful and difficult to divorce.

“When both parties are feeling bitter, guilty, sad and resentful, it makes it almost impossible to think clearly about how the financial separation should be handled. This is when you end up with arguments, recriminations, expensive legal bills and children often stuck in the middle of it all.

“If couples can be level headed enough to sit down together and draw up a plan before they marry, they can be certain they will never have to go through these things.

“If they stay together, that’s wonderful, and they haven’t lost anything by being prepared. In some respects, couples who arrange pre-nuptial agreements are underlining their confidence and trust in one another, which is the basis for a successful marriage, not a recipe for failure."

The one thing you must never do is try to pressure your partner into a prenup. Julie-Ann advises couples to aim to complete a prenup at least one full month before the wedding so there’s no suggestion of one party putting pressure on the other – one of the main factors that will void a prenup.

Iconic Celebrity Prenups You Should Know About

Though we've made it very clear that prenuptial agreements aren't just for rich and famous celebrity couples, the red carpet has seen some incredibly wild prenuptial agreements over the years, including some prenuptial agreements which are worth billions!

It wouldn't be a Hitched article without some celebrity reference, you know this by now, so here are some of the most well-known celebrity prenuptial agreements of all time. Some are all about the cash money - but some have some pretty interesting clauses in there. Will you be adding any of these to your prenuptial agreement?

Mark Zuckerberg & Priscilla Chan

Mark and Priscilla began dating back in 2003 and tied the knot nine years later in 2012. Their prenuptial agreement, unlike many celebrity contracts, had very little to do with money.

In fact, the most interesting clauses in theirs were that reportedly neither of them were allowed on Facebook - pretty ironic, but we totally get it. As well as that, Priscilla is apparently guaranteed 100 minutes alone with Mark, as well as one date night every week. We're here for these non-financial agreements!

Khloe Kardashian & Lamar Odom

Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom at an event with her hand on his leg
Getty Images / FilmMagic / Jason LaVeris

No family has generated more iconic celebrity weddings than the Kardashian clan and Chloe's nuptials to Lamar are right up there with one of the most memorable. Khloe married her now ex-husband Lamar in a gorgeous Vera Wang wedding dress, but sadly the pair separated after four years of marriage.

Their prenuptial agreement reportedly meant that Khloe was entitled to $500,000 for each year she was married to Lamar (totalling $2,000,000), a new car every time her lease ended, $5,000 a month shopping allowance and $1,000 per month for beauty and hair care. As well as that, she was also allegedly entitled to court-side seats for all Lakers games Lamar played in as well as ownership rights to their shared home.

Brooklyn Beckham & Nicola Peltz

Ahead of their lavish £3million wedding last year, The Mail on Sunday reported that Brooklyn and Nicola signed 'the mother and father of all prenuptial agreements' before tying the knot. The agreement was reportedly drawn up to protect both sets of parents' fortunes.

Though many of us view David and Victoria Beckham's relationship and £380million fortune to be mightier than most, their millions are dwarfed by that of Nicola Peltz's parents who are estimated to be worth £1.3billion. The details of the prenup were never revealed, but you can bet your bottom dollar there are some air-tight conditions in there. 

Beyoncé & Jay Z

Power couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z reportedly had a number of terms in their prenuptial agreement. One of the most interesting was the clause surrounding their children. In the event of a divorce, Beyoncé is allegedly set to gain $5million for each child they share, as well as an additional $1million for each year they're married.

If that is the case and they split up now, Beyoncé would be entitled to $14million for the 14 years they have been married, as well as an additional $15million ($5million for each of their three children) - making her total pay-out almost $30million.

But, and it's a big but, the terms of their agreement are valid for the first 15 years of marriage, meaning that after April 2023 (which is fast approaching!), the prenuptial agreement is void... The couple also added a post-nuptial agreement stating that in the event of a split, they would agree to 50-50 custody share of their children.

Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's prenuptial agreement was, unsurprisingly, all about their six children. The terms regarding their own incomes were fairly simple, in the case of divorce (which occurred in 2016), both Brad and Angelina would be entitled to their pre-marriage earnings.

All wealth outside of those totals would be entered into a joint trust fund which would then be shared between their children. The pair ensured that their prenuptial agreement fully protected all six of their children. The terms also included one on adultery, claiming that if Brad were ever to cheat on Angelina, she would get full custody of their children.

Now we've solved your questions around prenups, it's time to talk about how to uninvite geusts from your wedding and how to deal with interfering parents - we've totally got your back through this, our advice really helps!