‘She needs a trusted advisor who will cut through the noise and tell her to be a realist’, writes Marjha Golding-Evans
On a dark, grey Tuesday evening in deepest autumn, there is little else which can warm the cockles in the way a well-produced TV drama can. Gold Digger is delivering in spades with its bold storyline and suspenseful twists starring a 60-year-old woman (I flatly refuse to use the word ‘cougar’) who dates a man 25 years her junior.
The story starts at the end, as all good thrillers do, with Julia fleeing her wedding day in a blood-stained white dress; all less than a year after her acrimonious divorce from her husband of 32 years and in the shadow of her three terribly frustrating adult children.
So many questions arose after the first episode, some of them more moral and divisive than others; questions like ‘What was Julia thinking taking a video call in the quiet carriage of a train? Just awful behaviour’, ‘Benjamin is going to have a terrible headache mixing red wine and white wine; especially when it’s by-the-glass pub wine, surely?’ and ‘My, that hotel room looked wonderful; I wonder if we could stay there the next time we are in town…?’
But frivolity aside, whilst we do not yet know where the story might take us, it is hopefully somewhere more intellectually stimulating than the programme’s clichéd title sets us up for: ‘wealthy older woman fritters away/loses all her money and self-respect to a dashing younger man, while ‘I told you so’ rings in her ears from her whining children who watch their inheritance being spent on beautiful watches and holidays to the Caribbean’.
However, while this cliché might be terribly tired, like all clichés there’s usually a grain of truth in them, so what should Julia be doing to keep her coffers safe, and her children placated?
It isn’t romantic. You can roll it in edible gold and put it in a beautiful presentation box, but romantic it will never be; it’s a pre-nup. A really good one; drafted impeccably and with detailed advice on what it can and can’t include, how persuasive they are to the court and ultimately, how it protects her wealth, with a water-tight will for when the fateful day comes to stop the children squabbling over who gets the villa and who gets the house in Devon.
See. I told you it wasn’t romantic.
But as with all things contractual, it needs two willing participants. In the haze of an all-encompassing new love, getting Julia herself to contemplate a pre-nuptial agreement might be the first uphill struggle in this Tour De France of difficult legal advice. She needs a trusted advisor who will cut through the noise and tell her to be a realist.
To think about herself; because no-one else will, and to remind her that she never thought her three decade marriage would end but it did. And, like a will, a pre-nup isn’t something you get because you want your marriage to fail but because you pragmatically accept that it could. It’s like life insurance but even less appealing, which is a tall order.
Let me clear-up a commonly held misconception now: pre-nups are worth the cost and effort because, whilst not automatically binding, as with any agreement reached between a divorcing couple the court will always have the final say as to whether the arrangement will be made into a binding order.
This is mirrored with the terms of a pre-nup. So as long as you have been frank, open and truthful about your finances, there has been no coercion, and any children under 18 have been provided for, there is little reason a judge should direct something other than that which has been agreed between two consenting adults who were sensible when times were rosy.
Being pragmatic and legally savvy are the best ways to respect yourself and your wealth. A will should be part of that package; without it, Julia’s children would be reeling when Mr Not So Right automatically inherits her entire estate if she dies without one. Or, worse still, having to battle a challenge to her will when they question its validity or its failure to provide for them.
These discussions aren’t easy, either for you or your family and new beau. But like any difficult issue, ignoring it until it bubbles over is likely to leave you with a far worse (and dare I say it; expensive) mess to clear up than if you were bold, informed and protected.
You might have a loved one who, blinded by an energetic new love, isn’t informed. Inform them. Get them talking to an expert. They will thank you in the long run.
It might transpire that Julia gets robust legal advice and does the right thing. That is any great matrimonial lawyer’s eternal hope for our wonderful clients and their beautifully complicated lives. It’s what keeps us warm at night; that, and pawing over Mr & Mrs Smith’s website trying to find that hotel…
Marjha Golding-Evans is a family law associate at Irwin Mitchell