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Prenuptial Agreement

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Prenuptial Agreement

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Learn more about Prenuptial Agreement

A Prenuptial Agreement, also called a prenup, premarital or antenuptial agreement, is a legal contract made between spouses before the wedding in order to outline plans for the division of property and finances; and used if the marriage were to end in a divorce or death down the road. Not just meant for the wealthy, Prenuptial Agreements aren't only about protecting yourself in the unfortunate event of a legal separation or divorce, they can also help couples decide whether certain debts are personal or shared, and they can even help to define the plans for managing household finances. Without a prenup to provide guidance, the state is left to divide property and finances after a death or divorce, which means you may not like the final decision. This makes the prenup agreement a very important legal document for every couple to have regardless of financial status.

  • You are engaged to be married and wish to lay out the rights and obligations of each person regarding property and finances.
  • You own a business or property that you'd like to make plans for.
  • You hold a significant amount of debt.
  • You have previously been married or have children from a prior union.

Talking about money with a future spouse can be tough, however, being upfront and getting on the same page before getting married can help both of you to avoid conflict down the road. When you're sitting down to write a Prenuptial Agreement, it's often best to do so with your partner. If necessary, you may also consider asking a third party such as a mediator, counselor or religious advisor to facilitate the conversation. You should be sure that both parties engage in full disclosure during the discussion and that both parties sign voluntarily. Prenuptial Agreements may be challenged as invalid and considered coerced if they are signed less than 30 days before the wedding, so be sure that you and your significant other have ample time to discuss your financial planning decisions before you tie the knot.

Here are some scenarios that you may want to review together:

  • Previous marriage and children

    If you or your partner are obligated to pay spousal support or child support, be sure to note that responsibility. Further, if either of you have an inheritance or other savings set aside for your children's college tuition, you may also consider keeping that separate. Finally, if you wish to pass certain property down to your kids, you can outline that decision in your antenuptial plan, as well.

  • Income and debts

    Life doesn't begin at marriage. As such, you and your significant other will be starting your new life together with previously owned assets or existing financial obligations. What you will need to decide in your prenuptial contract is whether any of these are shared, or if you'll be keeping them separate. It's up to you, your spouse, and your attorney. Perhaps you'd prefer to share your income in a joint bank account, but keep your credit card debt and student loans separate to protect your spouse from creditors. With a Prenuptial Agreement form, you can define who holds what debt and also lay out a plan for splitting household bills and credit card charges.

  • Property and Inheritance

    If you've already inherited or expect to inherit the family home or a family business, and you want to keep it among biological relatives, you can denote that in the premarital contract. If you own other property that you'd like to keep separate, it is important to note that in the Prenuptial Agreement, along with any plans for its' distribution if you pass away or divorce.

  • What Happens If You Divorce

    Obviously, no one sets out to be married and thinks of divorce. But in a Prenuptial Agreement, you can protect both parties in the event that the unwanted does happen. You or your spouse, for example, can choose to forego a claim on alimony (if that is allowed in your state), or decide who keeps certain assets. If you have questions about what the laws in your state allow, you can always ask a lawyer.

  • What Happens If One Spouse Dies

    While you should consider creating a last will and testament or updating your estate plan when you're getting married, you can set certain conditions about assets and offspring in your Prenuptial Agreement. Again, it's likely that you and your partner will be sharing almost everything, but there are the occasional properties or assets that you may want to keep in your biological family or give to your kids from a previous marriage as opposed to your spouse upon your death. You can include those in provisions in your antenuptial contract.

If you are on the fence about whether or not you should get a prenup, here are a few advantages and potential drawbacks to consider:

Prenup Benefits

  • Encourages open communication between spouses
  • Protects pre-marital assets including inheritances and business assets
  • Protects the rights of children from a previous marriage
  • Maintains separate property
  • Reinforces your estate plan
  • Helps couples to avoid future conflicts
  • Establishes a procedure for future decisions

Prenup Drawbacks

  • Involves talking about money, a sensitive topic
  • May feel pessimistic to prepare for divorce while planning a wedding
  • May require negotiation or involvement of attorneys

Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to sign a marital contract after you tie the knot. Though not as common, a postnuptial agreement allows you and your spouse to outline your plans just as you would with a prenup. The only difference is that you are signing after your wedding date.

Another myth about prenups is that you can't change them after your wedding day. This is not true. If your financial situation has changed, you can alter or modify any terms as long as both parties agree and the updates are made in writing and signed. It is important to note however that unless the entire contract is revoked in writing, all other provisions will remain intact.

You may also want to consider updating your prenup if you move to another state where the laws might be different or if you become parents. If you have questions about any of the provisions in your prenup, don't hesitate to ask a lawyer.


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