In a recent article Iris Jones, 83, spoke about how she had dumped her toyboy husband aged 37.
There’s been lots of references to Iris in the media since she married her husband Mohamed who is from Egypt – most notably an interview she gave to This Morning where she went into graphic detail about certain aspects of their lives! They are now both claiming they dumped the other, with Iris stating she kicked Mohamed out in the summer of 2023 after he tried to get her to change her will to benefit him.
Iris has now moved on and apparently bought a cat to keep her company, but this story got us thinking about how just kicking a partner out is not the end of the marriage and how steps can be taken by anyone in Iris’ position to protect their assets in the event of a divorce or their death.
Protecting your assets in the event of a divorce
Unbeknownst to many, simply separating and divorcing is not the end of all marital ties. Financial claims between former spouses remain open until a court orders otherwise, meaning either party could make a claim against the other at any point in the future if an order has not been made. For Iris, this means kicking Mohamed out and buying a cat may not be the last she sees of him.
It appears that Mohamed was motivated by money as Iris refers to him trying to get her to change her will. If true, we would not be surprised if in due course Mohamed takes steps to make a claim against Iris. Whether such a claim would be successful is a topic for another article, but until such time as a court dismisses his claims Iris is at risk.
Iris is 83; has likely worked hard during her life and so may end up wondering if there was anything she could have done to protect herself before marrying Mohamed. Luckily for anyone considering marriage, whether to a toyboy or otherwise there is something you can do – and that is enter into a pre-nuptial agreement.
Whilst not legally binding, so long both parties entered into the agreement of their own free will, they understand the implications of the agreement (it is recommended that both parties have legal advice in this regard) and the agreement is overall fair then it is very likely this will be upheld by the court.
These agreements provide certainty and should hopefully reduce acrimony in the unfortunate event of separation. With the help of specialist legal advice an agreement can be tailored to your unique set of circumstances whilst saving you the significant costs of going through contested court proceedings. It is important to note that an agreement should be reviewed at certain stages to ensure it remains fair – the longer the marriage the less chance the agreement will be upheld if it is decades old.
In Iris’ situation a pre-nuptial agreement would have helped to protect the assets she has acquired throughout her life and hopefully avoid any unwanted claims by Mohamed, as the agreement would have set out what he was to receive from the marriage.
Protecting your assets in the event of your death
From an estate planning perspective, Richard Dundee, Partner in our Private Client team reviews the importance of writing a Will.
In the absence of a meticulously crafted Will, the default rules of Intestacy come into play, often with consequences that may diverge significantly from Iris’s desires. This is especially pertinent when a person marries someone whose intentions may be shrouded in ambiguity.
Under the Intestacy rules, Iris’s estate would be distributed according to a predetermined hierarchy of relatives. Unfortunately, these rules (and the people that might inherit courtesy of them) are unlikely to align with Iris’s preferences, especially when there are suspicions about Mohamed’s motivations.
Even when a marriage is new, a spouse having entered the marriage with potentially ulterior intentions can stand to benefit substantially from the entire estate in the absence of a Will.
Intestacy laws always prioritise the surviving spouse over other relatives, often granting them a significant portion or, in some cases, the entirety of the estate. This scenario could inadvertently reward Mohamed even if his motivations might extend beyond genuine commitment to his relationship with Iris.
To illustrate, in Iris’s case if there are no children, parents, or siblings, the Intestacy rules dictate that Mohamed inherits the entire estate. The lack of a clear Will leave Iris (and her estate) vulnerable to exploitation.
Crafting a Will is a crucial countermeasure in such situations. By explicitly detailing how assets should be distributed, Iris can override the default Intestacy rules, ensuring that her estate is allocated in a manner consistent with her values and intentions. This not only guards against potential opportunism by Mohamed but also provides peace of mind, knowing that her legacy remains under her control, even in the face of uncertain spousal motivations.
This article was written by Laura Stocks, Senior Associate in our Family team and Richard Dundee, Partner in our Private Client team.
The information provided in this article is provided for general information purposes only, and does not provide definitive advice. It does not amount to legal or other professional advice and so you should not rely on any information contained here as if it were such advice.
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