Guest Blog – Marriage / Divorce Focus

Chris Broome – Chartered Financial Planner

Gold Digger. Noun. A person who forms relationships with others purely to extract money from them.

We’ve all heard this term but have you or a loved one ever encountered one?

I’m disappointed to say that both personally (within my family) and corporately (for our clients) I’ve come across a gold digger or two – ones whose sole intentions were to financially benefit from a relationship.

It’s an important financial topic, and as such I’ve asked our good friend, Daniel Wilson, of EMW Law to shed some light on the legal protections you could consider to protect yourself or a loved one.

Predatory Marriages

Predatory Marriages – How to protect yourself and your family?

Daniel Wilson – Principal – EMW Law

With the ease of meeting people online via social media and the growing number of vulnerable people, it is no surprise that there has been an increased number of individuals being targeted by those looking to take advantage of the vulnerable victim’s limited capacity and accumulated wealth.

These predators usually seek to marry or enter into a relationship with people (usually widowed or lacking in mental capacity) for personal financial gain.

Joan Blass – 2015

A recent example that gained media attention was the campaign of ‘Justice for Joan and Predatory Marriage’. Daphne Franks, whose mother Joan Blass, was a victim of predatory marriage in 2015 has been campaigning to change the law that Wills are generally revoked upon marriage.

Daphne’s mother Joan was a vulnerable 87 year old living with dementia, when a man befriended her, isolated her from her family and married her in secret. When Joan passed away her new husband inherited her entire estate.

This was due to Joan’s Will being revoked upon the new marriage and then her estate being distributed under the intestacy rules.

A spouse is listed before children or other family members under intestacy rules, and in her case it meant that all of her estate went straight to her new husband regardless of what her old Will said.

Helping a family member who has entered a suspected predatory marriage

If you suspect a family member or loved one has entered into a predatory marriage, it’s important you raise your concerns with them, and try to encourage an annulment.

If the person in question doesn’t have adequate mental capacity to do so, you can make an application to the Court of Protection.

How to mitigate this risk

Although the effects of a predatory marriage may appear dire, there are steps that can be taken to reduce or even eliminate the risk of this occurring to you or a loved one.

Subsequent Will

As mentioned above, one of the financial issues with predatorial marriage stems from the lack of a subsequent Will being executed. Therefore, to avoid inheritance passing through intestacy to a partner with ulterior motives, a subsequent Will should be executed so the vulnerable person’s wishes are reinstated.

This, although the best insurance against predatorial partners, is not always possible. The secrecy that surrounds a lot of these marriages/relationships along with how fast paced and unambiguous they can be, often leaves families in the dark about how advanced these involvements can be and noticing in time can be difficult.

In some cases even if a family member or loved one does realise and one attempt at marriage is curbed, another can succeed.

LPAs

An LPA (Lasting Power of Attorney) is a document by which an appointed attorney (this can be a family member or loved one) is able to act on the vulnerable person’s behalf when dealing with their property and financial affairs. There is also a separate type of LPA which governs the health and welfare decisions of the vulnerable person if they are unable to make these decisions themselves.

The property and finance LPA can be drafted to come into force during the donor’s lifetime with their consent, allowing the attorney’s to step in for the at risk individual if needed.

The attorneys will then have access to finances and bank accounts which allows an oversight which, can unearth a predatory relationship as an attorney should be able to identify potentially suspicious transactions as well as prevent funds and assets being abused

However, it is worth noting that the donor must have capacity when drafting and signing an LPA, so this document should realistically be drawn up as soon as possible, ideally for anyone over the age of 18.

Prenup, Postnup & Cohabitation Agreements

If there is a relationship that is leading to a marriage or cohabitation (even if this may not seem in any way suspicious) it is a good idea to consider entering into a prenuptial or cohabitation agreement to protect the individuals and their separate assets.

With regards to predatorial marriages, these agreements can include clauses which protect an individual’s assets during their lifetime and include instructions on inheritance. They can also be used in conjunction with the individual’s Will.

A postnup agreement can be drafted after entering into a marriage and offers similar protections for the individual and their inheritance wishes.

Next steps

The EMW Wealth Team have significant experience in advising families, entrepreneurs and the independently wealthy on a range of estate planning and inheritance tax issues including gifts and how to protect them.

The Team welcome initial conversations and questions on a no obligation basis.

Daniel Wilson - EMW Law

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.