You work hard, and you and your partner-to-be are raking in the big bucks. Now, you need to figure out how to protect your inheritances, existing assets before marriage or gifts before you sign on the dotted line and make your marriage official. It’s important to know how to protect your financial assets and what protections you have, before planning the big wedding celebration.

Understanding Matrimonial Law

Matrimonial law in Singapore states that the court has the power to split assets in a ‘just and equitable manner.’

What in the world ‘just and equitable’ mean? 

According to Singapore law, there are many factors considered when splitting assets, including money contributions from each, children’s needs, and money contributed from each spouse towards the welfare of the family. Plus, the court will also consider any agreement in place that describes how assets are split in the event of divorce.

What Is A Matrimonial Asset? 

Matrimonial assets, defined by the Singapore law, is ‘property acquired during the marriage.’ This means if you purchased property before you got married, it is not classified as a matrimonial asset unless the property is used by the family or were improved during the marriage by either spouse.

Any gifts, property or inheritances have protection as long as they are kept separate in the marriage. For instance, if a spouse previously owns a home, and the couple permanently use it as their family abode can find the property split during a divorce. However, a vacation property, used sparingly is not subject to the same rule.

Gifts and inheritance also fall under a similar rule. The courts state that they ‘are not matrimonial assets unless they refer to the “matrimonial home” or are an asset that has been substantially improved by both or the other party.

Although prenuptial agreements are not always enforced in Singapore, drawing up a document detailing how gifts and inheritances cannot be split is a good protection and recognised by the courts.  It is always important to discuss how these assets will be handled before marriage, and draw up the proper documentation before completing the solemnisation.

Other assets, such as businesses, jewellery, cars, savings and stock shares are items typically split during court decided asset distribution. Although there might be some protection for family businesses if you contribute to the business in a significant way during your marriage, it might be deemed a matrimonial asset by the courts. Most commodity items, such as luxury goods, will almost always be split by the courts, regardless of any prenuptial agreements in place. Some couples will turn their assets into cash – that can be protected by a prenup – but this is only in extreme cases where one party has ample wealth.

As Singapore is still setting court precedents in regards to how it handles complex financial agreements before marriage, it is always advisable to know your rights and how your assets can be protected for your and your family.  It’s not something most couples want to think about, but being in the financial agreement can be a good foundation for a long and happy marriage.

For more information: Marriage Matters.

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