With the Law Commission proposing that marital property agreements (MPAs), covering pre and post-nuptial agreements, should be legally binding only last month, it is a fitting time to publish the results of a survey that has been undertaken (by Alex Porter, who announced the statistics first in full here) which analysed the work of legal professionals involved with MPAs. This project is part of a major study led by Dr Laure Sauvé from the University of Essex, School of Law. Her project will analyse the latest report by the Law Commission using a comparative approach. She is currently exploring the differences between English and French laws.
Increase of 73% in use of Marital Property Agreements UK
The online survey has shown that the popularity of MPAs is on the rise with an increase of 73% in their use over a 20 year period. In the last year 79% of respondents completed between one and five MPAs per month.
Little Application of MPAs in Court
It also revealed that very few MPAs are applied in full once they get to court: just 5% of respondents said courts applied the details of the MPA in full; 76% said courts applied the details of MPAs in part; and 19% said courts had not applied any details of MPAs. In terms of how many cases actually end up in court 40% of participants said they did not represent any MPA cases in court per annum, and 40% said they represent between 1 and 5 per annum. The level of litigation is therefore quite low against how many MPAs are being completed.
Those completing MPAs are mostly very wealthy. Looking at levels of capital and starting with women, the majority, 37% had between £25,001 and £100k, 23% had between £100k and £250k and 10% had over £250k. Men completing MPAs had a substantially more capital, 30% had between £100k and £250k and the majority, 53%, had over £250k.
This means that 33% of women had over £100k in capital but 83% of men had over £100k. It is no surprise that most cases that go to court are big money cases as the majority of those who want MPAs are very wealthy.
The Law Commission is recommending qualifying MPAs be put into statute and the participants of this survey mostly agreed. 69% thought that MPAs should be binging on the courts so long as there were adequate safeguards. Only 7% thought they should not be binding and 24% were undecided. However an interesting anomaly is that 55% of participants thought there would be more litigation on the basis of misrepresentation or undue influence if MPAs were binding, so for law firms it is a win win situation, especially as the price of a MPA ranges between £350 and £20,000.
Not unsurprisingly 72% said they now advertise MPAs as they have become more popular. The use of MPA will no doubt continue to rise and whether or not there is a rise in litigation will surface in due course. Either way the extra revenue will be a welcome relief for family lawyers with the recent legal aid cuts.
The full results are available at: http://internschooloflaw.wix.com/mpasurvey#
Image credit: Richard G via Flickr