Prenuptial or Pre-Marital agreements often carry with them negative connotations because people who are about to get married don’t want to start off by thinking, “What if we get divorced?” However, Prenuptial agreements actually involve important conversations that couples should have before getting married. Further, they will be effective upon death or divorce, so they carry with them an estate planning function as well. A prenuptial agreement helps outline clear expectations of both people in the marriage. While it may be more common to have this discussion for couples who are marrying later on in life, each couple can benefit from the process of working with professionals to discuss questions or concerns they may have related to their futures.
Stages of Life
What age are you when you are getting married? Are you 20-something? Are you 40-something? The discussion then is not just about preservation of assets, but also the knowledge of what is mine, what is ours, what is theirs? That is also particularly true if there are children from a previous marriage. At that stage in life, you are not only assessing preservation of assets, but estate planning comes into play. What do those children get if you were to pass away? How will they be provided for if they are minors? A new blended family has a lot to consider and a pre-nuptial agreement is a great tool for all of this. Further, for those in a second marriage, the pre-nuptial creates clarity about the assets entering the marriage and how those assets will be managed both during the marriage and at death.
A prenup for a younger couple is an opportunity for the couple to talk about children or approaches to money. Are you going to have children? If so, how many? Are you or your soon to be spouse spenders or savers? Money differences are a common issue in many divorces. Having these types of conversations before you get married may save a lot of heartache later.
When to Start Working on a Pre-Nuptial
A wise colleague said, “If the wedding invitations are in the mail, it’s too late to start a prenup.” While you can get a pre-nuptial agreement done close to the wedding date, ideally, it would be at least six months out, or even a year. It is case dependent based on the couple’s needs and wants. Most people who get a pre-nuptial agreement do so because they have a significant estate, and the exchange of disclosures is paramount. It is important to allow enough time for the process. Not only are you trying to learn what the couple needs but an education between the parties regarding their respective estates is taking place concurrently.
The biggest challenge is collecting all the financial information, formulating it properly, and exchanging it. When you start to exchange items, you will likely need more than what comes up on the first round. With collaborative professionals involved, you are working together to be sure that the agreement will be enforceable, includes all the agreements the parties are seeking and contemplates issues that the couple may not have thought of. Getting everyone around a table to discuss and evaluate options is key.
Pre-nuptial/Pre-marital Agreements define what is yours, mine and ours upon death or divorce. But there is much more to the agreement that can make for a better marriage and better relationships with the extended family.