Although we all love to think that our marriage is different and that our union will last forever, we have to face the facts: one in three of all marriages end in divorce. Although you may be entering into marriage with nothing but the best intentions, prenuptial agreements are a means of smart financial planning and personal protection, just in case you may need it.
A prenuptial agreement is a contract between two individuals about to marry, that spells out how assets will be divided in case of divorce or death. This does not necessarily mean that you are putting a time bomb on your marriage, and it doesn’t mean you don’t trust your partner. A prenup implies that you are merely a responsible individual willing to protect the interest of yourself and those you love.
Who Should Consider a Prenup
Contrary to common belief, prenup agreements aren’t only for those with mega millions. Anyone with a decent savings that is worth protecting should consider a prenup before tying the knot. Here are a few other categories of individuals who should consider a prenup
- One of you is significantly wealthier than the other
- You own all or part of a business
- You have loved ones who need to be cared for, such as elderly parents
- You are pursuing a degree or license that may result in a high salary job
- One of you will be supporting the other through school
- You may be receiving inheritance
- One of you anticipates a large increase in income
- One of you has children from a previous marriage
- You have assets like a home, stocks or retirement funds
How to Bring It Up
A prenuptial agreement is often a taboo and possibly offensive subject to bring up to the one you love. More than anything, it is a good idea to bring this topic up early in the relationship with full disclosure. A prenup should never come as a surprise to your future spouse, and if you two are open and honest with each other throughout your relationship, this agreement can be a mutually beneficial decision that strengthens your relationship.
It is also very important to approach this discussion with the right intentions and complete honesty. Begin by sitting down with your beloved and discussing each of your assets. Put together a list, and talk about it before going to a lawyer. Also note that it is required that each party in the agreement has their own attorney.
The key to a valid prenuptial agreement is honesty. Both parties need to be completely clear and disclose all of their assets in the agreement, or courts may render the agreement invalid. In addition, the agreement should be signed a significant amount of time before the wedding, to avoid any suspicion of coercion, which can also disqualify a prenup. Prenuptial agreements should be written fairly to protect both parties, and to avoid one party taking advantage of another.
Make sure you have a legally formal contract, so that it holds up in court, if it ever comes down to it. Interview a few attorneys before choosing a law office. Look for an office that is familiar with prenups and the individual laws of the state in which you will be living. Make sure the agreement is in writing and that the signing is witnessed by your lawyer. It is a good idea to have three signed copies, one for the bride, one for the groom, and one in the hands of an independent lawyer, accountant or locked in a safety deposit box.
Also, keep your prenup up to date. It is a good idea for couples to review their prenup every few years to adjust, if need be. You may want to give your spouse more than originally considered after an extended time of marriage, say 10 years or so.
As difficult as it might be to discuss a prenup before you and your sweetheart tie the knot, in the long run it is a document that can save a lot of time, money, and heartache if ever necessary. A prenup is a way to ensure that your property and assets are protected if the marriage ever deteriorates. Without a prenup, assets could be divided at the will of a court, ending up in the hands of stepchildren instead of your own kids, or in the hands of an undeserving ex-spouse. If you live in Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, or Wisconsin, the law states that property and assets acquired during the marriage must be split equally between the two parties, whether it is fair or not.
Premarital agreements are, of course, a personal decision, with the main goal of allowing the bride and groom to retain legal rights to their property and assets in the case of separation or divorce. If you are considering marriage and are interested in whether a prenup is right for you, call the family lawyers at The Edmunds Law Firm. We have over 30 years of experience in working with couples to determine the legal needs of each individual, and we offer case by case consultations at no charge. Call today to talk to one of our attorneys, or fill out the contact form on our website.