Family Law Blog

What to Know Before You Get Married

What to Know Before You Get Married

2022 is set to be a record-breaking year for weddings in British Columbia. While COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, couples who saw their nuptials delayed by the pandemic are finally taking the plunge, ensuring a busy wedding season for event planners, celebrants, and BC event venues.

Against this backdrop of swooning couples and celebrations, it’s important to take a moment to consider some of the legal aspects of marriage. Couples should consider several key areas where their lives will now be joined. Untangling some of these situations down the road can be messy, but a little prior planning can alleviate a lot of the stress.

In this week’s blog, we’re going to examine several key legal aspects of getting married, and how couples can put plans in place to minimize pain in the event of a separation.

Prenuptial Agreements (Marriage Agreements)

In the run up to a wedding, discussing a prenuptial agreement (marriage agreement) is one of the fastest ways to kill the romantic vibes, but it’s critical for ensuring both parties know where they stand in the event of a divorce. Many couples fall into the trap of believing they’ll be together forever, but with the Canadian divorce rate sitting around 40 per cent, it’s common sense to put plans in place.

A marriage agreement is a legal contract entered into by both marriage parties. It explains the respective responsibilities of each partner during the marriage, and what happens when it ends. It usually explains, in clear terms, the financial responsibilities of each partner relating to items such as property and debt. It also explains how this property and debt will be split if the marriage dissolves.

To learn more about marriage agreements, read our recent blog on Why prenups are important in BC.

Wills and Estate Planning

Another topic that can be hard to broach for couples before marriage is the question of wills and estate planning. It’s only natural that you’ll want to ensure your spouse is looked after should you die, and sitting down together to discuss your options is highly recommended.

In BC law, the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, which came into effect in March 2014, governs the rules regarding Wills and estate matters. A key aspect of WESA to be aware of is the fact that an existing Will made prior to marriage will continue to be valid after you get married. If you haven’t adequately provided for your spouse in your Will, they have the right to challenge the Will in court. Having this discussion, and clarifying any points before marriage, is highly recommended.

For further reading, check out our recent blog on 5 reasons to create your will now.

Changing Your Last Name

While it may seem overly traditional these days, some people still make the decision to adopt their spouse’s surname when they marry. As we covered in a recent blog, assuming your spouse’s surname does not constitute a legal name change under the BC Name Act. However, it does mean the individual changing their name will have to update several documents.

If you’re planning on changing your last name through marriage, make sure to update the following:

  • Identification cards such as passport, driver’s licence and BC Care Card
  • Information on file with Canada Revenue Agency
  • Social Insurance Number
  • Banking information
  • Utility bills
  • Insurance information

You will likely need to show your marriage certificate to action these changes.

Here to Help

Need assistance with any questions about the legal side of marriage? Contact us and the Vancouver Family Lawyers at Westside Family Law will be happy to assist.