Introduce the idea early
It’s never too soon to talk about prenups. Much as you would expect to discuss whether you intend to start a family, or where you’d like to live long term, ‘it’s less stressful if you normalise the idea from the outset of your relationship,’ says Suzanne Kingston, who has considerable experience negotiating prenups including those with an international element. Ideally you would raise the topic before proposing, but if you’re already engaged, bring it up as soon as you can, before starting to plan the wedding.
Use friends as examples
‘If friends or acquaintances mention that they signed a prenup, making reference to their situation can make the idea seem less alien,’ says Michael Gouriet who regularly advises on prenups, especially for families who have estates which have passed down through generations. ‘As prenups have become more common in the past few years, we’ve found the conversation is not as hard because people will often know someone who has one.’
Choose your moment
Find a time when your partner is in a good mood, and you have time to talk things through properly. ‘Choose a neutral location, perhaps when you’re going for a walk or having dinner,’ suggests James Copson, a partner with extensive experience of negotiating prenups.
Your first concern may be to avoid upsetting your partner. But being straightforward is always the kindest approach, says Julian Lipson, head of the Withers family team: ‘I don’t think beating around the bush is wise. Be clear, speak kindly, get it done, and then you can forget about it.’
A frank talk about the future can strengthen you as a couple, suggests Katharine Landells, who believes that strong marriages are built on communication. ‘The right outcome will be different for everyone, so don’t be afraid to raise what you think would be fair in different scenarios, such as if you have children or move abroad, or if one of you comes into an inheritance.’
Show it’s not personal
Often it is not the individual themselves who is suggesting a prenup agreement. Explaining this makes the conversation easier, says Claire Blakemore, who frequently deals with prenups involving trusts. ‘More and more trustees are advising beneficiaries to consider prenups. If the same requirements apply to everyone who marries into your family or to all shareholders in private companies, it shows that nobody is being singled out.’
Focus on fairness
Try to keep your initial talk to broad principles on which you can both agree. ‘Where there is a big financial disparity between partners, it’s a no-brainer to get a prenup,’ says Julian Lipson. ‘Many people accept it as fair that wealth acquired before a marriage, or inherited from family, should be protected.’
Offer to cover costs
If you are the financially stronger party, helping your partner to get legal advice shows that you intend to meet their needs. ‘Courts will only uphold a prenup if it’s fair, which means that all parties need to be well advised,’ says Brett Frankle, who helped a husband uphold the French prenup he had with his wife.
Talk the same language
Suzanne Todd, who has many clients from Italy where marriage contracts are common wealth planning tools, finds that they have less difficulty discussing the idea. ‘If you or your partner are international citizens, it may be helpful to talk about the marital property system in your home country. A prenup can help you to recreate that, or adapt it to suit your circumstances.’
Treat it as insurance
You can explain the need for a prenup in terms of insurance. Diana Parker, who has represented many high-profile clients says ‘You insure against burglary not assuming that bad things are going to happen, but to make things as painless as possible if they do.’