1. Negotiate and decide with each other, before meeting your lawyers
The #1 reason some people end up paying much more than they thought for certification is this: negotiating and changing the agreement after the lawyers are already involved.
At Agreeable, we recommend that both partners take an active role in drafting and reading the agreement before signing up for certification with us. Keep in mind that some people are best to get legal advice before beginning certification, such as where you have a range of complex assets like businesses or trusts, or you’re not quite at an agreement or understanding over what you want. Agreeable will let you know if this may apply in your situation.
However, if you are both relatively clear on how to split things, and how everything works, you’ll want a simpler, lower-cost certification process (like Agreeable’s). To achieve this, you and your partner/ex-partner should both read the draft agreement, agree on the details, and finalise what you want in principle, before meeting your certifying lawyers. This can save you hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, and avoids a lot of stress.
2. Include all financial assets, even those you’ve verbally agreed on
While it might be tempting to leave some assets out to “make it simpler”, the reality is that anything not mentioned explicitly in the agreement will remain relationship property. This runs the risk of undermining the purpose of a binding agreement: to safeguard assets as separate property.
For example, if you choose to leave your personal bank accounts out of the agreement, the bank accounts will likely remain relationship property and each party will have a 50% claim over all personal bank accounts in the relationship. This might be something you want, but if it isn’t, a verbal agreement on keeping the bank accounts separate is not going to provide clarity or certainty for the future.
Either party will have every right to claim half of the total relationship property pool later on, and that may include the assets that you chose to leave out. Alongside the Family Home, Agreeable generally recommends including all bank accounts, Kiwisavers, share portfolios, debts, and other financial assets. In general, it is better to be safe than sorry.
3. Prepare and provide full disclosure of the value of your assets
Both lawyers will require disclosure of documents proving the value of the assets in the agreement. Disclosure is a crucial step in the process, as without it, the lawyers cannot advise you on your entitlements under the Act.
Withholding disclosure, or waiting until the lawyers have to track it down, will only slow down your certification process and increase your cost. Agreeable regularly saves Kiwis hundreds of dollars on certification by helping you prepare your disclosure documents before you meet with your certifying lawyers. Get in touch with our team at any stage if you are unsure on what you will need to disclose.
4. Do your research and use the helpful resources available online
Reading this article is a great start, and we encourage everybody to do some reading before starting on their agreement. The more knowledge you have on what is required, what isn’t required, and how the process works, will only help you get sorted faster and at a lower cost.
To start you off, here are a few great online resources you can use today:
- Agreeable’s guides to relationship property agreements (prenups) and separation agreements.
- MoneyHub’s guides to prenups and separation agreements
- The NZ Law Society on dividing relationship property
Don’t forget too: the team at Agreeable is always around to answer initial questions you may have on how agreements or certifications work.
5. Expect advice from your lawyer, not just a quick signature
Your certifying lawyer is professionally obligated to ensure that you understand the effect and implications of the agreement, and that you understand the entitlements that you or the other party are giving up. To do this, the lawyer will have to take a bit of time to review the agreement, your circumstances, and give you advice, which may alter your understanding of the situation.
It’s important not to expect short-cuts, or to take them, at this stage. If you seek certification, you are paying for the protection of a legally binding document, not just a quick box-ticking exercise. At Agreeable, our certifying lawyers are experts in the field, with a focus on being pragmatic – however, trying to rush through your certification process only risks more cost and a potential dispute down the track.