13 Things You Need To Know About Prenups Before Saying “I DO”
In Western cultures, including the United States, more than 90 percent of people marry before the age of 50. Most of these marriages begin with expectation of a happy life together, maybe having children and building a future. Even though we know a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems, the truth is that nearly 50 percent of those marriages will end in divorce.
Too often marriages end in bitter controversy over money and/or child custody rights. Because marriage is a business relationship as well as a romantic relationship, many of the contested battles could have been eliminated if the marriage had started out with a prenuptial agreement in force.
Many couples entering into the starry-eyed bliss of matrimony consider a prenuptial as a symbol of mistrust and forecasted failure even before the marriage begins. In truth, a prenuptial agreement can be an important tool that protects each spouse’s financial and parental interests in order to make the parting more amicable.
Before couples agree to initiating and signing a prenup, they need to understand the pros and cons of such an important and binding agreement.
Pros of Prenuptial Agreements
• If one of the parties has been married before, a premarital agreement can spell out the inheritance rights for any children and grandchildren from the previous marriage.
• For business owners or practicing professionals, a prenup can prevent that business or practice from being divided up with the divorcing spouse.
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• If one partner is heavily in debt and the other is debt free, a prenup can protect the debt-free spouse from the burden of having to assume that debt.
• In some cases, a partner who has a successful career at the time of the marriage plans to give that up after the ceremony. A prenup can lay out a formula to compensate the injured party for the lost earnings that career would have generated during their marriage if the marriage fails.
• A prenup agreement can spell out the details of decision-making and responsibility of the two parties in advance.
• When there are children involved at the time of divorce, a prenup can spell out a reasonable limit of child support payments one spouse will have to pay to the other.
• For older persons entering into a second marriage or more, a prenup can protect the financial interests of those people how have built considerable wealth over their lifetime.
Cons of Prenuptial Agreements
• Some agreements require you to give up all rights of inheritance from your spouse’s estate if they die. Be forewarned that even if your spouse dies and doesn’t include your in their will, you are entitled by law to a portion of that estate.
• Under the laws of most states, any increase in the value of your spouse’s business that you contributed to is considered community proper, and you have a rightful claim to your share of that increased value. Be aware that some prenup agreements have specific clauses nullifying that asset sharing.
• Beginning a marriage with a written contract that spells out how to dissolve the union in case of divorce or death can instill a sense of distrust from day one of the marriage. Both parties need to understand the practical benefits of a prenup and that it is not a forecast of things to come.
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• No one has a crystal ball that can see into the future. What may seem like small and insignificant compromises during the romantic period leading up to marriage could become overwhelming problems after the marriage ceremony.
• A spouse who is a low or no-income earner during the marriage could find it impossible to maintain their lifestyle after a divorce. If the prenup spells out a spousal support payment far below the amount needed to sustain that lifestyle, there is little recourse but to lower your standard of living expectations.
• Too often parties in the “honeymoon” stage of a relationship agree to terms that are not in his or her best interests because they’re “too much in love” to question the terms of the prenup.
Consulting a Family Law Attorney
Many couple entering into marriage find the idea of a prenuptial agreement to be confusing, trust-threatening or unnecessary. A good lawyer can go over the pros and cons listed above and explain the state laws that have jurisdiction over the coming marriage. Anyone entering into a marriage today would do well to consult an attorney and have them spell out the rights of both parties.