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Warning over rural pre-nups

A legal expert is warning of the importance of pre and post-nuptial agreements for those operating agricultural businesses.

Statistics for the UK show that 42 per cent of all UK marriages are now ending in divorce. However, Ann Hallmark, solicitor in the Family team at Napthens solicitors, an NFU panel firm, warns that for farmers the financial fall-out from a divorce can be particularly disastrous.

Where a business is involved, the result of a divorce can be breakup or even outright sale. As in any divorce, the starting point for negotiations will be the equal division of matrimonial assets – the most valuable of which will likely be the former matrimonial home and any family business.

For farmers and similar businesses, in many cases the matrimonial home will be the farmhouse, likely to have been passed down through many generations of the family. While inherited assets are not automatically included in the matrimonial ‘pot’, they are not automatically excluded either.

Farms themselves are often run as partnerships, often with other family members involved.

Ann explained: “Family members in partnerships will be very interested as to the financial outcome of divorce proceedings. Land and property values are increasing which means in many cases, farmers will have little option but to sell parcels of land or borrow money in order to finance a divorce settlement.

“Given what is at stake, and the attention most farming families rightly give to succession planning, serious consideration of pre and post-nuptial agreements should be part of this process.

“Although they aren’t yet legally binding in the UK, such agreements have become increasingly taken into account by the courts in England and Wales, and can set out in detail what will happen financially should a marriage end – providing security and reassurance for those involved in running a farming business.

“Farming families are becoming increasingly business savvy with some even including a clause in partnership agreements that children joining the partnership should enter into pre-nuptial agreements before tying the knot or even living together.”

Divorce and Family lawyer Ann Hallmark