It has been reported that the widow of Hugh Hefner will not inherit any of his $43 million fortune.

Why? Crystal Harris signed a prenuptial agreement in 2012 prior to marrying the Playboy founder, who went on to leave most of his estate to his four children.

Pre-nuptial agreements might sound like the preserve of Hollywood A-listers but they are becoming increasingly common in the UK as a means of protecting the assets that you bring into a marriage.

A pre-nuptial agreement is simply a contract setting out what will happen to your assets should you subsequently separate or divorce.

It might seem awkward to consider this as you make plans for the big day, but if you wish to safeguard family assets or your business, it is well worth thinking about.

For example, a pre-nuptial agreement would ensure that shares in your business don’t end up as an asset in future divorce proceedings. Even if you are already married, you can put a post-nuptial agreement in place.

The court will always have the final say in divorce financial proceedings but it is increasingly willing to give weight to pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

For a pre-nuptial agreement to be upheld by the court, you will need to demonstrate that the agreement has been entered into freely and without duress and that both parties have fully disclosed their finances.

The agreement has to be fair and realistic and might need to be reviewed during the course of the marriage particularly if there is significant change in circumstances.  Each party should take separate, independent legal advice in creating the agreement to make sure it is tailored to your personal circumstances and carries greater weight with the court.

Similar criteria are followed for post nuptial agreements.

Careful thought needs to be given towards children as the Law Commission’s proposals are that pre and post-nuptial agreements would only be enforceable if the financial responsibility towards your children have been met.

The cost of drawing up pre or post-nuptial agreements depends on the complexity of your financial arrangements and the negotiations, but it is a good investment providing peace of mind that your assets are protected and protracted financial proceedings can potentially be avoided.

If you would like advice on pre or post–nuptial agreements or any other family law-related matter, please contact Sarah Johnson on 01782 205000 or email sarah.johnson@beswicks.com