COUPLES often become so occupied with planning their big day that they don’t set any time aside to plan details of their life after the wedding. As well as preparing for the wedding itself, there are a number of legal matters that all couples should think about.
Do you want to change your surname?
Although taking your spouse’s surname is not as popular these days, both spouses do still have this option. There is no special process to follow after marriage, you can start using your new surname. A copy of your marriage certificate should be enough evidence of your name change if anyone needs proof (such as your bank, doctor or lawyer). Name changes can be registered on the title of any property you own, although this is not a legal requirement. If, for any reason, you want to change back to your original surname, you can simply start using your old name again.
The most common type of property ownership for couples is a joint tenancy where each person owns an undivided share. Upon one owner’s death, full ownership transfers to the other owner, regardless of what any Will says. If each person contributes a different amount towards a property purchase, a tenants in common structure may be more suitable. Each person owns a specified share in the property (usually based on financial contribution), which can be recorded on the title. In the event of death, an owner’s share transfers according to the terms of their Will. It is important to understand different ownership structures to ensure you choose the one that suits you best.
Joint bank accounts are an easy and sensible way to manage money after tying the knot. Each spouse has equal ownership, as well as individual and joint responsibility for the account. Be careful though – this means you could be liable for a debt if your partner cannot afford to pay it. Joint accounts make day-to-day spending simple if both spouses have similar attitudes to money and similar purchasing habits.
Contracting out of shared property
The general rule is that all property is shared equally between spouses upon separation or death. The alternative option is to enter a contracting out agreement (sometimes referred to as a prenup) where property is divided upon privately agreed terms. The agreement defines each person’s share of property and allows each person to retain their own assets. It provides couples with certainty and security over their assets and can also provide protection from each other’s debts. There are certain legal requirements that must be met for agreements to be valid, so legal advice is advised.
Effect of marriage on existing Wills
Marriage causes any existing Will to be automatically cancelled. Couples need to ensure any existing Wills are updated to reflect their upcoming marriage.
Considering these legal matters before marriage and understanding their effect will ensure that couples can get set up in the best possible way for their new life together.