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Advice! Wedding Checklist

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Legal support for soon-to-wed couples from Joanne Brown, Partner, Head of Family at Tanner de Witt

PHOTOS COURTESY OF Tanner De Witt & Unsplash

Marriage is a legal matter. An important part of marital planning is to ensure that the implications of marriage on your legal status are carefully considered well before the wedding.

No one finds it easy to open a dialogue about pre-nuptial agreements particularly during the engagement period but it may well be in your best interests to do so. Know too that you will need to update your will. Marriage invalidates all previous wills, and it gives top priority to your spouse in intestate estate distribution if you die without a will after marriage.

A pre-nuptial agreement is an agreement made between a couple prior to marriage as to the manner in which their financial affairs should be regulated in the event of a divorce. The agreed arrangement could be different from what the Court might order had there been no agreement.

A pre-nuptial agreement is important if there are concerns with asset protection from a marriage. The starting point for sharing of assets in the case of divorce is generally that total assets should be divided equally between the two parties.

This means a starting point of 50/50 split of matrimonial assets worldwide unless either party can show compelling reason or circumstances to depart from this starting point. This includes wealth held in family businesses, interests in family trusts, investment properties, and pension and retirement funds as well as structured employment benefits with future distributions. Generally, salary and any other form of income gained during the marriage, as well as assets acquired after the marriage, are matrimonial assets and considered shared assets.

Our advice? Do not delay. Get a pre-nuptial agreement and set up a structure to carve out capital acquired before marriage. Ideally, the agreement should be signed at least 28 days before the intended wedding date. Gaining understanding and compromise is fundamental.

Dreaming of a destination wedding? Check if your wedding ceremony in a foreign country constitutes a valid marriage in Hong Kong.

To ensure that the marriage is recognised in Hong Kong, you should ensure that your marriage is celebrated under the legal procedures recognised by the law in force at the time and at the place of the wedding ceremony. For example, marriage celebrated in Bali is recognised in Hong Kong if the ceremony and the legal documentation are valid under Indonesian law. Otherwise, it is only a symbolic wedding ceremony that is recognised neither here nor at the place of the marriage.

You also have to check the legal requirements before deciding where to hold your destination wedding. For example, not everyone can legally get married in Bali. A person may only get married in Indonesia providing he or she observes one of the five religions recognised by that country.

Tanner De Witt was established in 1999 and now has a team of over 100, including more than 50 Hong Kong lawyers. The firm’s family and private wealth teams can talk you through the steps necessary to protect your future family members and give you the peace of mind that your affairs are in order.
For more information, visit www.tannerdewitt.com.

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