How to Protect against Predatory Marriage

The i newspaper and the BBC have discovered many cases where lonely, unworldly or elderly or ladies and gentlemen have been persuaded to marry totally unsuitable scammers. Often the family doesn’t discover the predatory marriage until the “widow” or “widower” walks away with all or most of the estate. The predator may pretty much disappear from the scene until their “spouse” dies, and they then reappear to collect the loot. So it can be hard to detect.

Should you recognise that you, like most people, might be a bit vulnerable after the death of a partner or just being on your own too much as time goes on, the earlier you act, the better you can protect yourself and your family whilst not destroying any chance of future happiness.  In too many “blended” families, things are set up badly and one family ends up with everything and the other, NOTHING.  That does not need to happen: contact us for sound advice,A predatory marriage definition is “somebody coercing another into marriage purely to inherit their estate”. With an ageing and increasingly lonely population, the problem of predatory marriage is on the rise, and coercion can be so very subtle that outsiders are not aware of it.

How does this happen?

Well, an existing Last Will and testament is currently automatically canceled on a subsequent marriage, unless it was clearly set up in anticipation of that marriage. So the new husband or wife will automatically inherit most of the estate under the Rules of Intestacy, and maybe even get their hands on it earlier with a spot of gentle persuasion.  Some affected families have raised concerns with MPs over the fact that marriage usually cancels Wills, though I believe the overall benefit in other than predatory marriage is very positive: many ex-wives or husbands would inherit their divorced husband’s estate and leave the new family penniless, as people often fail to update their Legal Planning (see Peace of Mind Service).

How to avoid evil Gold Diggers

As I said, anyone with money who is vulnerable can be targeted, though the paper has specifically looked at the situation with the elderly whose faculties may be beginning to wane.  But let’s face it, pretty much everyone is moved by persistent subtle flattery, so it is worth outlining measures which protect those of us who think we are invulnerable.

Prenuptial Agreements – probably not.

One measure which is starting to be taken more seriously by the Courts is the prenuptial agreement.  If it sets out a fair and reasonable arrangement (ideally with both sides having taken advice) then the Court may well be persuaded to uphold it. But the victims are often not even aware this can be done.

Lasting Powers of Attorney may help

Another way to improve the situation is to have Lasting Powers of Attorney in place, and for statements (or copies) to go to the family members acting as attorneys as well.  That way, you will at least be alerted to any unusual changes and may be able to take some action. In this type of case, it is crucial to have both the Finance and Health and Welfare Powers of Attorney in place. Though these can no longer be prepared once mental capacity is lost, so call us early.

Property Alerts

If the predatory “spouse” wants to benefit early, they may try to sell or re-mortgage the property, or take out loans against it.  You can register with the Land Registry to be advised of any changes to the register regarding the property. https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/

One thing NOT to do:

The best way to protect property from predatory marriage is NOT to put it in the children’s names as many do.  That means you will probably be liable for both Inheritance Tax on death of a parent or child AND capital gains tax if the property is sold.

So what is the best way?

For properties below the  Inheritance Tax Threshold, it is straightforward to put the property into trust so the potentially vulnerable person technically no longer owns it, but the additional property IHT allowance can potentially be retained.

There are other options, but they are very much based on individual situations, so please do call us if you would like help.  But it really has to be done while the person you are concerned about understand the situation – if they don’t then it gets much harder to do anything. Call 01323 741200 or use the form.