When you think of marriage, you likely think of doves, flowers, white dresses, cake, and eternal love, right? When a lawyer thinks of marriage they think of something a little less romantic: contracts! I know it’s not exciting to think of your upcoming nuptials as a contract, but hey, it is what it is. Why not set aside your weird feelings about it and define the financial terms of the marriage instead. Think of a prenuptial agreement as an extra document in your estate plan.
What is a prenuptial agreement?
A prenuptial agreement (better known as a prenup) is a legal document that couples enter into before getting married. This agreement sets out the terms and conditions of what happens if the couple splits up. It can be something as simple as specifying how property will be divided or who will financially support whom in the event of a break-up.
A will vs a prenup
A will and a prenup are very similar. Both are legal documents that set forth the wishes of an individual regarding their estate. Like a will, a prenup can also address a surviving spouse’s rights upon the death of the other spouse. Spouses may choose to waive their inheritance rights entirely or specify what each spouse should receive upon the death of the other.
Best practices for obtaining a prenuptial agreement
Follow these steps if you want your agreed-upon inheritance rights upheld in court.
Before the Save the Dates
It is best to begin the prenuptial agreement process long before your desired wedding date. Waiting until the week or even the month before your wedding may indicate to a future court that the agreement was signed under duress and should not be enforced.
Both parties must disclose all of their assets and liabilities to each other. You should gather your most recent records for any stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, checking and savings accounts, and even an appraisal for your house and car. Make a list of any student loans, personal loans to family or friends, mortgage debt, and car loans. If you do not disclose all of your assets and liabilities, your prenuptial agreement may be invalidated by the court.
After the Honeymoon
After you have signed your prenuptial agreement and married your spouse, your attorney may advise you to record your prenuptial agreement with the clerk’s office. While this is a great option to ensure you will always have access to a copy of your prenup, it is important to note that if recorded, your prenup will become a public record. A more private alternative would be for each spouse to keep a copy of the agreement in a fire and waterproof lockbox with other important documents.
Create an estate plan after the marriage
Shortly after your marriage, you should create or update each of your estate plans with your marital status. Update the estate plans again if you have children.
In conclusion: A prenuptial agreement is financially smart
Prenups are becoming more popular and are perfect for young couples who are still learning how to navigate being an adult in this world. Overall, a prenuptial agreement is not an indication that your or your spouse believes the marriage will fail; instead, it lays a strong financial foundation for the marriage. Both parties walk away feeling protected and confident that there will be no ambiguity or surprises later in life.
If you are not sure if a prenup is right for your situation, consider reaching out to our office. Our attorney can help you figure out what to do. Book your free 15-minute initial call now!