Ah, the married life! When planned well, matrimony can turn into a beautiful, life-long partnership. But prior to tying the knot, many newlyweds fail to ask crucial information about their partner’s life that may place an expiration date on their marriage one day. Before you take the leap into matrimony, sit down for a serious conversation with your potential spouse and ask yourselves these essential questions:
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If you plan on marrying somebody, it is critical that you fully understand the state of their finances. If you marry someone that’s in a financial hole, you can easily be dragged down into it. Here are some basic areas to cover:
1. Do you have any credit card debt?
How much does your partner owe? What are the interest rates and minimum monthly payments? Will your partner be able to pay the debt off by your wedding date?
2. Have you filed for bankruptcy? If so, when?
Bankruptcy destroys your credit rating and severely impacts your ability to borrow money. If you need to take out a loan, the interest rates attached to it will likely be much higher than they are for someone with good credit.
3. Do you have any “real” property?
Real property is any building or structure attached to land, including the rights and interests to them. Know the terms of the mortgages and the monthly payments on those properties, and understand the fair market value of them so that you can determine if they have any positive equity.
4. What is the value of your “personal” property?
Personal property is divided into two categories: (1) Corporeal personal property, such as pets, jewelry or boats; (2) Incorporeal personal property, which includes mortgages, trademarks, and patents.
5. Who will legally own our property once we’re married?
While most couples don’t immediately look into property rights after marriage, there is a lot to consider. In most states, property owned by each individual before the marriage and bought individually will remain separate while property purchased together will be considered jointly owned. However, in community property states, all new property is considered jointly owned, including income, debts, and any purchases. Only property that was individually owned (or gifted or inherited) by a specific spouse remains separate.
6. Are you a co-signer to any other debt?
A co-signer is a person who is contractually obligated to pay back someone else’s debt if that person cannot do so themselves. As a co-signer, you essentially guarantee that the debt will be paid and therefore become equally responsible for it. Be wary of becoming a co-signer. If the debtor decides to file for bankruptcy, it will appear on your credit history.
7. Do you want a prenuptial agreement?
Some individuals want to insure that they won’t be taken for a ride in a divorce proceeding should the marriage go south. Defining specifically what their spouse will receive in the event of the dissolution of a marriage may be of paramount importance to them. If you are marrying someone who demands that you sign a prenuptial agreement, make sure you have that agreement reviewed by an attorney.
8. If we have children, will we hire a nanny?
Sometimes daycare just doesn’t cut it, but before you hire a full or part-time nanny to care for your child, sign a nanny agreement to ensure your interests are protected.
9. Will we file taxes jointly?
In addition to numerous other financial decisions you and your spouse will have to make, you can expect a significant change in the way you share money with Uncle Sam if you decide to file taxes jointly or separately. Filing joint returns allows for different deductions and costs, so it is important to determine what your status will be.
Although you may think you know all there is to know about your partner, don’t forget to ask them:
10. Are you still married?
It sounds like a silly question to ask the person you plan on marrying but if your partner previously married and hasn’t finalized the divorce, you won’t be able to marry them. If you or your spouse has been in a previous marriage, be ready to provide proof of divorce or annulment.
11. Do you have a will?
Your spouse has the ability to give away any of their assets that are not community property (property acquired during a marriage) to whomever they choose. Find out if your future spouse is open to creating a new will that takes you into consideration.
12. Do you have any prior criminal convictions?
A colorful rap sheet may impact your partner’s ability to land a job, as 92 percent of employers conduct some variation of a background check on prospective employees. Although these may be tough questions to ask, finding out whether or not your partner has a criminal record is essential to your financial well-being.
14. Do you have life insurance?
It’s important to know whether your spouse has life insurance and whether these would consider adding you as a primary beneficiary. Be sure to ask what type of policy (e.g., whole life term and variable) they own, what their death benefit is, whether the policy has any cash value, what the annual premium to maintain the policy is, and who the beneficiaries are.
15. Do you have and/or want any children?
Raising a child can be rewarding, but it is also a costly endeavor with the average cost of approximately $304,480 for a middle-income family in the United States. Aside from wanting to dodge the financial burden of having children, your partner may not be ready to start a family when you are. Before you get married, communicate with your spouse-to-be about why or if you want to have children, when you will be prepared to make lifestyle changes in order to accommodate a family, and whether you are financially ready to have kids.
Check out our marriage center for more helpful tips, articles and commonly used documents you may need. If you still have questions that were not answered, Rocket Lawyer is here to help with Ask a Lawyer.