Prenuptial agreements, commonly referred to as “prenups,” are common among the rich and famous.
But prenups aren’t just for celebrities. Normal people need them, too — even when they’re broke. If you’re considering getting married, a prenuptial agreement is a smart move for both you and your spouse.
What is a prenup?
What is a prenup, exactly? A prenuptial agreement is a contract mutually agreed upon by the two people getting married.
It addresses issues like money or property brought into the marriage, but it also lays out what happens to the assets in the case of divorce. A prenup can protect inherited valuables and defines a predetermined settlement if the marriage goes sour.
While it may not sound romantic, a prenuptial agreement is necessary to provide protection. Even when you’re young, have debt, and no property, a prenup is still a good idea.
Why a prenup is beneficial
After asking, “What is a prenup,” many couples often follow up with, “Is it really necessary?” Attorney Jeffrey J. Kash has been practicing family law for 28 years and is an advocate of prenups for most couples.
“Even if the couple does not have assets to protect, they should plan for addressing income disparity and how it would be addressed,” says Kash.
“If one spouse will work while the other pursues post-graduate work, their incomes would be quite different for a time. Should the employed spouse pay alimony or spousal support in the event of a divorce or separation?”
Additionally, a prenup can also protect your accounts. While you may not think you have much in assets, many people have more than they think. From pensions to employer-offered retirement accounts, the money you have set aside is at risk if there is a divorce.
But one of the biggest things prenups do is establish how you will treat debt. If one person enters the relationship with significant student loan debt, a prenup can outline how the couple manages the debt and how you will divide it in the case of a split.
Finally, if one or both of you has children, a prenup adds protection for them. “If there are children from previous relationships, a prenup can help protect those children by excluding certain assets from being subject to division in divorce,” says Kash.
How to get a prenup
To create a prenup, you need to hire an attorney. It’s an added expense, but a necessary one. You each should have your own lawyer to avoid any conflict of interest. Many lawyers will agree to do a basic prenuptial agreement for a flat fee.
Talk with your partner about your finances, debts, assets, and anything you expect to inherit. It’s essential that you each approach the conversation openly and honestly. Discuss what your priorities are and what things are important for you to protect.
In your prenup, you will have to list all of your assets and describe them, down to the cut of your diamond ring and the artist who painted that picture your aunt gave you.
You also have to list all of your debts and how you will handle them. If your partner is solely responsible for his student loans, include that. If you will help him pay down the debt, write that down instead.
Finally, you can lay out any important situations that would affect your separation. If you want to include a special clause for infidelity or the sale of property, outline that as well.
Your lawyers will help walk you through the process and discuss other issues to include in the prenup, including alimony, spousal support, and what happens to your home.
“Keep in mind that each state has its own laws regarding marital property and the division of property, alimony, support, and prenups,” warns Kash. “Anyone considering getting married should consider a prenup and consult a good family lawyer in his or her state.”
Should I get a prenup?
If you can’t decide if you need a prenup, take the time to list out all of your accounts and valuables. You may be surprised at how much you really do have, and how much would be at risk. Getting a prenup provides much-needed protection.
Sitting down and developing your prenup may not be the best date you’ve ever had with your partner, but by having these conversations before you get married you can pave the way for a smoother future. Laying out your expectations can take away a lot of the pressure you would face otherwise in your marriage.
If you’re considering getting married, talk to your partner and set up a time to go over your financial situations. Then meet with your attorneys to create and finalize your prenuptial agreement.
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