Wedding season is here! An important part of the planning that may be overlooked is the need for a written understanding between the parties as to how future legal issues between them are to be resolved.
Premarital agreements (prenuptials) are becoming more prevalent because many people have acquired property and assets before getting married and would like to protect them. High-profile cases put prenuptials on the cover of the tabloids, but they are not just for the rich and famous. A prenuptial should not be regarded with skepticism or as a reason to doubt the love or commitment of the person proposing it. A premarital agreement can actually enhance a couple's relationship by requiring each person to lay all of his or her cards on the table before the wedding.
Here are just some of the many reasons to have a prenuptial: to protect and keep your separate assets separate during the marriage; to agree on how increases in separate property will be treated if the marriage is dissolved; to ensure inheritance rights for your child/children from prior relationships; to set up barriers against liability for your prospective spouse's previous debts and/or debts acquired after marriage; to agree on how household expenses will be paid and whether or not to have a joint checking account; and to agree on personal or religious rights.
While a premarital agreement can override many of the standard provisions in the law concerning marriage and inheritance rights, some things cannot be the subject of a prenuptial, such as child support obligations for a child conceived during the marriage. Also a will or living trust written after the marriage can override stipulations of the prenuptial in some cases.
To have a binding prenuptial agreement, ideally each person should be represented by his or her own attorney. If a party is unrepresented, there are certain waivers and disclosures that must be made. At least seven days should elapse between the time the parties review the agreement and the date the agreement is signed. As part of the process, each person should honestly disclose his or her complete financial information; not doing so could affect the enforcement of the agreement.
Prenuptials are not about how much you love your intended mate, but about protecting yourself and/or your children. You should consider a prenuptial before marriage if you already have children from a prior relationship or own real estate, a business, or investments. Also, you should be concerned if your intended mate is in a high liability exposure business/occupation or has debt or credit issues. Raising the issue with your future spouse can be hard to do, but if that person really wants to be with you, respects you, and wants an honest relationship, then he or she should not be offended.
Copyright © 2014 by Marlene S. Cooper. All rights reserved.