Do you need a prenup?
As a family law attorney, I feel that everyone contemplating marriage should consider a prenuptial agreement. However, drafting and signing a prenup isn’t for everyone. Here is a brief quiz to help you decide whether you and your intended should get a prenup. Each of you should answer each question, and then compare answers.
- Do you own any real estate?
- Do you own other significant assets?
- Do you own a business (either by yourself or with partners)?
- Do you have more than $10,000 in debt?
- Are you earning more than $100,000 a year?
- Will one of you works while the other pursues additional education?
- Will all or part of your estate go to someone other than your spouse? (This is often the case if there are children from a previous relationship.)
If you or your fiancé(e) answered any of these questions with a “yes,” you should consider consulting a family lawyer about drafting a prenuptial agreement.
When couples marry, few contemplate that their marriage might end in divorce. The hope is that their marriage will be forever. The reality is, however, that some will end, sometimes bitterly, in divorce. Much of the acrimony of divorce could have prevented if the parties had a prenuptial agreement.
So why do so many couples, who are aware of the risks, fail to even consider entering into a prenuptial agreement?
Prenuptial agreements are for wealthy people; my fiancé and I are just starting out. Things change. As you become older and more accomplished in your career your income will increase. Your assets, particularly your home, your savings and your retirement accounts will become more valuable. The prenuptial agreement can protect the accumulated wealth and provide for how it will be dealt with if a marriage ends in divorce or death.
Prenuptial agreements only protect the wealthier spouse and leave the other spouse with little or nothing.
Prenuptial agreements must be fair. If the agreement is found to be unconscionable, the court will set aside. (That is, the court will act as if there was no prenup.) Particularly where there is disparate wealth, the prenup can provide for maintenance for the less well-off spouse in the event of divorce.
Premarital Agreements must cover everything, soup to nuts.
The agreement can be tailored to your specific desires. I prefer that prenups be comprehensive, but it is possible to craft one that covers one particular issue. (For example, you own a business with your siblings and do not want it to be a part of any potential divorce proceeding.)
“We’re planning a wedding – we’re always so stressed out about money, I don’t want to talk about finances.”
Drafting a prenuptial agreement is an excellent time to make sure that each of you knows what the other person’s financial picture looks like. The prenuptial process includes financial disclosures. If there are any problems, this is the time to see them! I encourage couples to begin the prenuptial process early, so that there is sufficient time to make the disclosures, deal with any problems that crop up, and have important conversations about how each of them wants finances to be handled during the marriage.
Premarital Agreements Aren’t ROMANTIC
This is what I hear most often. My explanation is that getting a prenup is like saying “I love you enough to talk about what things might look like if at some point in the future, things fall apart.” It is much better to have this discussion now, in the flush of happiness, than at a time when you and your spouse might be highly emotional and stressed by other factors.