PRENUP — THE (NEXT) BEST CHOICE YOU EVER MADE!
Vancouver prenuptial agreements lawyers prepare “prenups” known as prenuptial agreements and also called “marriage agreements” in British Columbia. Vancouver prenuptial agreements lawyers will explain that a prenup is an agreement between two people that deals with the financial consequences of their marriage ending. Our Vancouver prenuptial agreements lawyers know that in reality, all marrying couples, and even couples who live together for a long period (i.e. over 2 years), or who have a child together, have a default “prenuptial agreement” known as the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act. But if you have a high income or substantial assets you may not like the consequences of these BC divorce and family laws, and you may prefer to exercise control over the way your life would be affected by a breakup rather than leaving it in the hands of the government. Vancouver Prenuptial Agreements Lawyers are often involved in these cases and it makes a lot of sense to get a customized Marriage Agreement drafted by our experienced British Columbia and Vancouver prenuptial agreements lawyers.
Vancouver Prenuptial Agreements Lawyers
Are you much wealthier than your partner? A well-crafted Marriage Agreement can ensure that your partner is marrying you for who you are, and not for your money. Do you earn much more than your partner? A Marriage Agreement can be used in British Columbia to limit the amount of spousal support that you could owe after lengthy relationship. Are you remarrying? Your legal and financial concerns may be very different than in your first marriage. Now, you may already have children from the previous marriage, support obligations, and you may own a home or other significant assets. A Marriage Agreement would be critical to ensuring that in the even of another separation, your financial obligations and distribution of your remaining assets and property interests are manageable or even feasible.
Hire a team of Vancouver prenuptial agreements lawyers who have a track record of wealth preservation and asset protection in matrimonial cases. 1-877-602-9900 in BC and Calgary.
We can help if you call us before the relationship starts or you get married and sometimes even after if you act quickly!
Our Vancouver prenuptial agreements lawyers warn that there are multiple ways a prenuptial agreement can be attacked. The common law lists a group of factors and our new Family Law Act sets a test of “significant unfairness” to:
- set aside an agreement on the distribution of property and debt between spouses
- divide family property or family debt other than equally
- divided property normally excluded from division
- set aside an agreement on spousal support
Wealth Preservation and Asset Protection Starts Before You Live Together Or Marry Not After!
The British Columbia Supreme Court recently signalled yet another endorsement of prenuptial contracts, in an action by the wife for property division, parenting arrangements, and retroactive and prospective child and spousal support. In S.L.D. v. W.A.D., 2016 BCSC 616, the parties had met in 2003. The wife was employed as an executive assistant to the husband. The parties began cohabiting in 2004. They married in 2007 in Alberta and separated in 2012 in BC. Prior to the marriage, they had two children. Their third child was born in 2009. The wife left the workforce in 2005. In 2005, the husband purchased a business which flourished. Our Vancouver prenuptial agreements lawyers note that by the time of their 2007 marriage, the husband had considerable net worth. His personal assets were in excess of $1 million. His net worth was about 7 million. The global assets of the parties totalled $7.5 million at trial.
Consider Excluding Company Assets
Under the parties’ prenuptial agreement, the husband’s corporate holdings were excluded. The wife’s property entitlement was restricted to an interest in the matrimonial home and its contents, ongoing entitlement to RRSP contributions throughout the marriage and entitlement to both spousal and child support. The agreement was subject to Alberta law. Both parties were represented by counsel during the negotiations. The wife now sought to have the agreement set aside for non-disclosure and an imbalance of bargaining power.
On the issues of proper disclosure, potential duress (when a party is unduly influenced or coerced by the other side or by circumstance), and the adequacy of the wife’s independent legal advice Mr. Justice J.S. Harvey opined:
153 Here, the respondent disclosed all of his assets during the negotiation of the Agreement. All were identified and incorporated into the body of the Agreement. What was lacking was the underlying value of the corporate assets. While there was no formal valuation of the respondent’s corporate assets available to him at the time of the Agreement’s negotiation, the evidence discloses the respondent had an informed estimate of the value based upon information prepared by the corporate accountant, Mr. Clark.
155 There is no question but that the respondent’s income tax returns and financial documents disclosing the performance of his corporate holdings were offered to the claimant through correspondence to her counsel, Mr. Andrew, by Ms. Rollins.
158 Mr. Andrew made no request for further information but sought changes to the wording of the Agreement as well as changes that substantively affected the claimant’s entitlement to chattels previously not contemplated by the Agreement. I accept that Mr. Andrew was instructed by the claimant that she did not care about disclosure beyond that which was contained in the correspondence first received by her. I have already concluded that was not because of any threat from the respondent.
159 In my view, the combination of the willingness of the respondent to provide whatever information was sought, coupled with the clear reference to the claimant’s right to request further information, including valuations, precludes the claimant from now raising non-disclosure of valuation estimates as to the corporate holdings that she had long since agreed to forgo any interest in, so as to vitiate the Agreement.
162 It is regrettable that the original letter from Ms. Rollins did not contain more by way of documentation. Perhaps with the inclusion of same, the Agreement would not have been signed in its present form; perhaps its terms would have been enhanced to reflect the admitted growth of the value of CSI during cohabitation, or perhaps the marriage would not have taken place and the claimant would have pursued the advice given by Mr. Anslow.
163 But that is not what happened. What did happen is that the claimant decided she would stand by her original assurance that the corporate assets would remain the respondent’s and she, in turn, would receive one-half the equity in the matrimonial home in exchange, coupled with the annual RRSP contributions, co-ownership of the chattels and support rights in accordance with federal or provincial legislation.
165 The claimant argues that “understanding the effect of the agreement” is insufficient to satisfy the requirement for independent legal advice unless it can be shown that the signatory, in this case the claimant, was fully apprised of all relevant circumstances, was advised of her legal rights and obligations and was offered an opinion as to whether or not to sign.
167 Assuming for the purpose of discussion that the principles are transferrable, I conclude that the claimant did receive complete, independent advice from Mr. Anslow as to the advisability, or otherwise, of signing the Agreement as first proposed through Ms. Rollins.
168 She was clearly informed by Mr. Anslow as to the effect of the Agreement and his concerns about both disclosure issues as well as the potential constructive trust claim against assets of admittedly unknown value, which may have arisen since the commencement of cohabitation.
169 The claimant took that information to the respondent, with the result he agreed to an immediate transfer of one-half the equity in the matrimonial home. Therefore, by signing the Agreement, the claimant secured two things: an immediate, defined interest in the matrimonial home and its contents and a contribution annually to her RRSP. The consideration ultimately received by the claimant accorded with her long-standing expectation, as evidenced by the earlier referenced email, and was in excess of that proffered by the respondent in the original correspondence from Ms. Rollins, which suggested, based no doubt on the model in Hartshorne v. Hartshorne, 2004 SCC 22, that the claimant’s entitlement to one-half the equity in the matrimonial home be staggered over a five-year period.
170 While admittedly a neutral factor, she also retained her rights to both spousal and child support. She abandoned potential claims in trust as against the respondent’s corporate assets, but had agreed to this two years before when the issue was first discussed.
172 Whether the claimant had a claim entitling her to an interest in the assets of the respondent was a matter of contention. Regardless, the claimant cannot now complain she entered into the Agreement absent an opinion as to its advisability or the other options available to her in the absence of signing the Agreement. She had sufficient information so as to make an informed decision as to how to proceed. I earlier noted the various options which were available to the claimant.
173 While perhaps anxious to get the matter of the Agreement out of the way, as appears from her July 20 email to the respondent, the claimant was following through on a long standing commitment to sign an agreement which left the respondent’s corporate holdings exempt from division.
175 Both Mr. Andrew and Mr. Anslow testified that they explained the legal effect of the terms of the Agreement to the claimant. Mr. Andrew reviewed the actual document with her prior to its execution. Mr. Anslow reviewed the more onerous terms suggested in Ms. Rollins’ original letter.
176 I have no doubt that the claimant fully understood the impact of the Agreement prior to its execution on August 7, 2007 and was aware of options available to her in lieu of signing the Agreement.
177 As to the suggestion that the claimant’s vulnerability led her to sign the proffered agreement without proper consideration, I note her email to the respondent of July 20, 2007, following a meeting with Mr. Anslow, wherein she described their extensive past conversations and noted, “our agreement to put the house in joint name [sic]”; “CSI-I want no part of-I’ve said this from day one”; and a willingness to forgo any interest in the respondent’s checking account or RRSPs. Such was stated with a full awareness of her potential claims and the requirement, according to Mr. Anslow, for more information. Knowing all of that, the claimant was willing to forgo her potential interest in the respondent’s corporate holdings for an immediate one-half interest in the matrimonial home.
178 Further, the advice from Mr. Anslow, or his partner, “Tom”, that the Agreement, if put before a court, “wouldn’t be worth the paper it is written on” makes clear the claimant had the opinion of at least one lawyer that the Agreement was unfair to her.
179 Although it is true the claimant did not have a complete understanding of the respondent’s net worth, either at the commencement of their cohabitation or at the time the Agreement was executed, she was aware that CSI was a recent acquisition made during the period of cohabitation and she was advised by Mr. Anslow that her parenting of C., then M.W. and M.C., coupled with her stated work for CSI, might well result in entitlement to an interest in the respondent’s property absent marriage.
180 With all of that in mind, the claimant signed the Agreement.
191 Here, the claimant had the opportunity to avail herself of further financial information if such was truly necessary to inform her decision as to whether or not to enter into the Agreement. She also had the option of declining to marry the respondent, carrying on in the relationship with him and relying, if necessary, upon common-law principles to deal with the division of assets in the event their relationship floundered down the road. Her entitlement to support, whether spousal or child, was unaffected by the Agreement.
192 Finally, it must be noted that, on my observations of the claimant and all of the evidence given in both phases of this trial, it is clear that she is a confident, self-assured person who, at the time of the execution of the Agreement, had a significant background in management or quasi-management positions. Her personality is now, and I conclude then, such that she was unlikely to be bullied or overwhelmed by the personality of the respondent who, in fact, is more soft-spoken and retiring than the claimant and unlikely, in my view, to have presented himself in the fashion described by the claimant over the period of time from Ms. Rollins’ first correspondence to the claimant up to the ultimate execution of the Agreement on August 7, 2007.
193 The idea that a valuation placed on the respondent’s corporate interests in the area of $5-6 million would have resulted in the claimant declining to execute the Agreement is speculative, given the long-standing understanding which existed between the parties that the respondent’s business holdings were to remain separate property upon marriage.
194 Harry requires a two part investigation: (a) proof of inequality in the position of the parties arising from the ignorance, need or distress of the weaker, which left him in the power of the stronger; and (b) proof of substantial unfairness in the bargain.
195 I am unable to conclude that the claimant was in a position of inequality as the term is understood from Harry. Any ignorance arising from the lack of a valuation of the corporate assets was due to a lack of accepting that which was offered.
Thus, the prenuptial agreement was valid. The husband’s willingness to provide whatever information was sought coupled with the clear reference to the wife’s right to request further information, including valuations, precluded her from now raising non-disclosure of valuation estimates as to the corporate holdings that she had long since agreed to forgo any interest in, so as to vitiate the Agreement. In signing the agreement, the wife was following through on a long standing commitment to sign an agreement which left the husband’s corporate holdings exempt from division. The wife fully understood the impact of the Agreement prior to its execution and was aware of options available to her in lieu of signing the Agreement.
The value of pre-planning with your soon-to-be spouse illustrated in the S.L.W. opinion. In addition to the considerations mentioned above, If you are marrying someone with a significant debt load, and don’t want to be responsible for these debts if your marriage ends, then a prenuptial agreement can help ensure that this does not happen. If you own part of a business, a prenup can ensure that your spouse does not become an unwanted partner. A prenuptial agreement can ensure that your estate plan works, and, for instance, ensure that a specific heirloom remains in your family. A prenup can also be used to ensure that the partner who is weaker financially is protected.
Vancouver prenuptial agreement lawyers will help to ensure that your prenuptial contract stands up to inevitable attack when things go south. The stigma of these types of arrangements is increasingly a thing of the past. Do not be afraid of using this tremendous tool to help shield your wealth and livelihood from the oftentimes harsh dictates of British Columbia divorce laws.
Call our Vancouver Prenuptial Agreements Lawyers now 1-877-602-9900 to map out a Strategy that maintains financial freedom.