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Things to consider when entering into a new relationship
October 2022

Starting a relationship in later life, or following the breakdown of a previous relationship or marriage, often comes with a sense of hope for a new beginning. However, new relationships can also often have tricky legal implications for the families involved.

Legal advice is not usually the first thing on our minds when we start a new relationship, but it is especially important for anyone with children from a previous relationship – for example, because you may need to prepare a Will (or update an existing Will).

Some important points that you may not have considered when entering into a new relationship, but which might create headaches in the future, include whether you:

  1. intend to marry or cohabit with a new partner, as the law treats married couples and unmarried cohabiting couples differently;
  2. receive maintenance from your ex-spouse, as this will stop if you remarry (though, it can also stop if you live with another person as their partner or civil partner too);
  3. have any family assets which require protection (for example, cherished or sentimental items such as jewellery, artworks, or a family home);
  4. need to prepare a Will or updating an existing Will to ensure that the people you care about will inherit from your estate when you die; and
  5. need to enter into a pre-nuptial (or post-nuptial) agreement to further protect your finances, any property you own, or your business in the event your new relationship breaks down.

You may not have considers all or some of the above points, but it is not necessarily too late to do so.

What can I do to protect my property and my children?

When you marry or enter a civil partnership, your financial position will likely change. It is your responsibility to manage your money, but you will inevitably need to think about how you will organise your finances (either jointly or separately). Your new partner and you may have quite different approaches to money, so it is important to be clear from the start how you wish to pay for things and to make financial decisions.

If you are contemplating marriage or a civil partnership in the near future, you may wish to consider entering into a prenuptial (“prenup”) agreement. A prenuptial agreement is a legal document that sets out what your partner and you have agreed would happen (for example, to your assets, finances and any children from the relationship) in the event you separate. If you are already married or have entered into a civil partnership, you can enter into a similar agreement, called a postnuptial (“postnup”) agreement instead. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are not legally binding currently but the Court will consider the terms of the agreement if you later get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership.

If you do not intend to marry or enter into a civil partnership but intend to cohabit (i.e. live with) your partner, you may wish to consider a cohabitation agreement (also known as a “living together agreement”). This is particularly important where, again, you have assets you wish to protect as there is no such thing as a common law spouse. Like prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, a cohabitation agreement sets out what your partner and you have agreed would happen (for example, to your assets, finances and any children from the relationship) in the event you separate.

Do I need to update my Will?

As soon as you remarry or enter into a new civil partnership, any Will that you have already prepared is usually no longer valid. You will therefore need to prepare a new Will if you want to ensure that your beneficiaries (for example, your children from your previous marriage) receive what you wish them to have. If you are only making minor changes to your Will, it may be possible to update your Will with a shorter, ancillary document called a “codicil”. A codicil amends your existing Will without the need to rewrite the whole Will. Whether or not a codicil will be appropriate depends on the specific circumstances and changes you wish (or need) to make, though.

Estate law can be particularly complicated if you have previously divorced or separated. At Jolliffes, our specialist Private Client team will help ensure that you can pass your estate to the people you want to receive the same.

Further considerations

As well as preparing or updating your Will or entering into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement or a cohabitation agreement, our specialist solicitors can also assist with other important legal decisions that may arise when entering into a new relationship. For example, preparing Lasting Powers of Attorney to appoint a trusted person (or people) to manage your finances and health decisions if you lose the mental capacity to manage these yourself in future.

At Jolliffes, we understand that there are many issues to consider when entering into a new relationship, particularly when this is later in life or following a divorce or separation. We take the time to genuinely understand your needs, providing a bespoke service in a personal and approachable manner.

To find out more, or discuss our competitive fixed fee advice options, contact us on 01244 310 022 or at law@jolliffes.com

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