Farm Ireland

Thursday 24 May 2018

'You don't go up the aisle with a bouquet and come back down with half the farm' - Should you sign a prenuptial agreement?

A pre-nuptial must be fair and make proper provision for both parties, for a court to enforce its contents
A pre-nuptial must be fair and make proper provision for both parties, for a court to enforce its contents
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

An expert panel at the Ploughing Championships has advised farmers to update their will regularly and to sign a prenuptial agreement in order to protect their farm.

Speaking from The Irish Independent tent in Tullamore, the panel discussed marriage, prenuptials, divorce, succession and wills and how farmers can protect the ownership of their land.

Farm Ireland Editor Margaret Donnelly hosted the panel that featured Dearbhail McDonald, Group Business Editor at INM, Deirdre Flynn, a solicitor in Kerry, Teresa Murphy, a barrister in Galway and Martin O'Sullivan, author of the Farmer's Handbook and an agricultural consultant.

Commencing the talk, solicitor Deirdre Flynn said that there is no automatic entitlement to your partner's land if you are not married but that you can apply through the court to become a "qualified cohabitant" which would grant you entitlement to the land.

"There are no fast and hard rules in family law. You don't go up the aisle with a bouquet and come back down with half the farm. It's true in some situations but not in all. Each case is different."

Group Business Editor at INM Dearbhail McDonald said: "Farmers were hugely opposed to the divorce referendum because farmers were afraid that it would lead to the division of land and a breakdown of generations. However now, it is farmers who are leading the way in calls for prenuptial agreements.

"After a lot of reluctance and change, the courts are now taking into consideration prenuptial agreements but they must be fair."

Barrister Teresa Murphy said that there has been a huge increase in the number if prenuptial agreements in the past few years.

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"There is now a desire for security. It gives them an opportunity to plan for the worst case scenario."

Adding to the discussion, author and farming consultant Martin O'Sullivan said that in his experience, courts don't sell off farms after a marriage breakdown.

"My experience is that I haven't seen any farms sold because the court ordered it. Succession is a concern and it is something that people have to get their heads around."

When approaching the conversation of wills, Dearbhail McDonald said it's best to approach it practically.

"You have to say 'I currently love you, but in the event of not loving you, we should negotiate'."

Deirdre Flynn added that older generations also hugely impact the decisions of asset ownership.

"A lot of people think about their parents and say that this farm has been handed down by generations so they think their parents would be devastated if they lost the land. Farming is a business but it's not just a business, it's the family land."

Speaking about wills, the expert panel said that when making a will, farmers should make their wishes very clear.

Martin O'Sullivan said that wills and succession is getting "more difficult" to plan.

"People want to protect themselves and everything they have. Farmers have to leave their land to their sons and daughters and hope that their marriage lasts."

Teresa Murphy added that you need to specifically name people you want your farm entitlements to and plan your will in accordance.

"You need to set up specifically what each person gets in your will. It's important to consider who will get each individual item on your farm."

Solicitor Deirdre Flynn said that if you make a will before you're married, that will no longer is considered.

"Marriage trumps a will but a divorce doesn't. You should be making a will every five years to keep your will up to date."


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