With the difficulties in the economy and uncertainties around Brexit, fluent French speaker Charlotte Symes says it has been a challenging 12 months for clients and their finances. ‘It is important that we as lawyers adapt to our surroundings and are aware of the changes happening around us so we can advise our clients in the best way possible’, she says. A recent example is that, with house prices having decreased significantly in London, it can take a very long time for some clients to sell the family home. ‘This is problematic when a couple are separating and are trying to sell the family home, and one spouse needs his or her share of the net proceeds of sale to buy a new home. Sometimes this can mean that divorcing couples have to live together under the same roof for longer, or that one party must rent for longer than anticipated or desired. Properties at the upper end of the market are notably harder to sell,’ she observes.
Symes has also noticed an increase in the number of clients wanting prenuptial agreements. ‘Previously these were more limited to those who had extensive wealth, a family business or perhaps they were entering into a second marriage. Now I’m finding that more and more high-earning young professionals want them, particularly if they come from a jurisdiction where there is a default marital property regime in their home country. This is interesting from a cultural perspective, as in many European countries it is quite normal to discuss how you want to own assets when you get married and you tick the relevant box in an obligatory legal form to indicate your choice. Whereas in England it is seen as awkward or even inappropriate to mention a prenuptial agreement to your fiancé.’ However, Symes thinks that this attitude is changing, and people are starting to recognise that a prenuptial agreement is simply an insurance policy to provide more certainty in the event of a divorce. Described as ‘wonderful’ by clients, Symes goes out of her way – literally meeting clients near their homes – in order to make what can be a painful process as stress-free as possible.