What is a Prenuptial Agreement?
Though it may be the last thing on your mind as you plan your big day, having a conversation with your partner about a prenuptial agreement could secure your personal and business finances in the future.
Prenuptial agreements, often called “prenups,” have historically had a negative connotation. Traditionally, people saw prenups as an assumption that a marriage will fail; or indicate that a relationship lacks trust. What they fail to see is that a prenuptial agreement can be an effective tool to clarify financial matters in your relationship, build trust, and enhance communication.
In this article, we’ll go through the ins and outs of a prenuptial agreement, why it should be a consideration for every couple, prenuptial agreement template ideas, and prenuptial agreement pros and cons.
What is a Prenuptial Agreement?
As the name implies, a prenuptial agreement is completed before marriage and is a written contract between two people in a domestic partnership. The contract outlines requirements about how the couple’s assets, including money and property, will be handled in the event of divorce, death, or disability.
In a prenuptial agreement, couples must fully disclose their assets, debts, and financial obligations. In death or divorce, the prenup dictates the division of the estate. Without a prenup, state laws determine how property, assets, and debt are allocated.
What is the Purpose of a Prenuptial Agreement?
A prenuptial agreement does more than protect your money. Here are some of the many purposes of a prenuptial agreement:
- To avoid confusion over finances and save on legal fees in the event of divorce
- To obtain protection from an ex-spouse’s debts
- To ensure children, including children from previous marriages, receive a share
- To address inheritances and gifts
- To guide household spending and financial responsibilities within the marriage
Why You Need a Prenup Agreement
Prenups are not just for the wealthy. Many wrongfully assume that prenups are only for the rich, but they aren’t just for protecting those with substantial means. Having an outline for how finances will work within the relationship often gives couples a sense of security.
It’s helpful to think of it as health insurance for marriage; you hope you never need it but feel safer having it. Prenups protect your assets and ensure your future financial health, as well as that of your spouse and children.
What Should a Prenuptial Agreement Include?
Prenuptial agreements are sometimes complex, so it’s essential to think of every scenario before signing one. While every prenup is unique, many will cover all of the topics below.
Prenuptial Agreement Checklist
- Assets and debts
- Children from different marriages
- Income and spending during the marriage
- Retirement plans
- Non-monetary contributions
- Spousal support or alimony
- Gifts and inheritances
- Children within the marriage
- Business ownership
- Fault in the divorce
- Death or disability
Prenuptial Agreement Pros and Cons
Here are some of the benefits of a prenuptial agreement.
Prenuptial Agreement Pros
It helps with estate planning.
Divorce is usually more complicated when you have children, especially if there isn’t a prenuptial agreement. The same goes for death.
Without a prenup, the surviving spouse might not have sufficient instructions or insight into how their deceased partner may have wanted to divide the assets. Add a child from a previous marriage, and you have a recipe for confusion and possible conflict.
It protects your assets in the event of a divorce.
Without a prenuptial agreement, divorce has the power to destroy your financial life. Not only will the assets disappear without the proper protection, but the resulting legal fees can be draining. The longer it takes to determine the division of assets, the more money your lawyer will charge you in hourly fees and administration costs.
It protects you from your spouse’s debts.
What if your spouse picks up an ugly gambling habit or hides debts from you? With a prenup, everything is on the table, and obligations around debt are understood.
It encourages honesty and can strengthen relationships.
Could prenups strengthen relationships? As mentioned above, prenups obligate couples to put everything on the table, which helps to establish deeper trust.
The negotiation involved in a prenup can be awkward, but it creates an in-depth conversation about each person’s values and goals for the future. If you get to the same page, you will better understand each other’s priorities and beliefs, strengthening your relationship.
Prenuptial Agreement Cons
Despite the importance of prenuptial agreements, they also come with challenges.
Uncomfortable discussion and hurt feelings.
Vulnerabilities within the relationship and insecurities of the individual members often arise when discussing prenuptial agreements. In some cases, one spouse might feel more hurt over a prenup than the other, making for some awkward and uncomfortable conversations. Also, tension may occur if the couple disagrees on how to handle the split of assets.
If the couple has not undergone premarital counseling, this could be a good time to consider it. OURS is a 100% virtual premarital counseling program that can help couples work through their anxieties and get on the same page before committing to marriage.
Discrepancy with religious beliefs.
Some religious bodies disagree with prenuptial agreements, even if their scriptures don’t explicitly say so.
For example, Catholics see marriage as a complete flesh union without attached strings. They also view marriage as life-binding and don’t accept divorce as a Christian act. If one spouse holds very religious beliefs, they might see a prenuptial agreement as going against those beliefs.
However, this isn’t to say that religious people don’t get prenups. Many people of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faith have signed prenups.
Not everything is enforceable.
Different states have different laws for prenuptial agreements. You might find that a clause you want to add is unenforceable in your place of residence.
Further, a prenup must be considered fair in order to hold up in court. Once you and your partner draft an agreement, it’s a good idea to have separate lawyers - one for each of you - review the document and advise on it before finalizing.
Prenuptial Agreement Cost
Prenuptial agreements vary in cost. Couples will pay anywhere between $1,000 to $10,000, with more tricky financial situations costing more. Prices depend on the location of residence, assets, debts, and the type and reputation of the lawyer handling the agreement.
How Long Does a Prenuptial Agreement last?
A prenup usually lasts the length of your marriage. But, some prenups include clauses that expire. For example, some prenups have clauses that indicate no spousal support if the marriage lasts less than five years.
Can I Get a Prenuptial Agreement after Marriage?
Certainly! It’s never too late to get a prenup; however, the name for a prenup after marriage is a postnuptial agreement.
A postnuptial agreement is almost identical to a prenuptial agreement, except for the timing of the contract signing.
Some people get postnuptial agreements after they contemplate their finances a bit longer. Others intentionally leave this for after the marriage.
Prenups Can Protect Both Spouses
What Should a Woman Ask for In a Prenup
Although both parties benefit from considerations in prenups, here are some things experts recommend women ask for:
- Premarital property, especially if you both live in and contribute to the property
- Infidelity clause
What Should a Man Ask for In a Prenup
Here are some common considerations for men in prenups:
- Limitations on alimony
- Time limits for specific clauses
- Infidelity clause
Risks of Not Getting a Prenuptial Agreement
As mentioned earlier, state laws will determine the split of assets and property in the event of death or divorce. Everything you protect with a prenup is at risk if you don’t sign one. These include:
- Inheritance for your children, both within the marriage and from previous relationships
- Loss of assets and income
- Inheriting debt from a partner
- Business harm
What the Experts Say
“Really, a prenuptial agreement is a lot like auto insurance – you hope you’ll never have to use it, but you’re glad you have it when you’ve gotten into an accident!”
Gary Ashmore, Divorce Attorney
“It’s become a part of every divorce lawyer’s practice now because, if you don’t have a prenuptial, see a psychiatrist, not a lawyer.”
Raoul Felder, Celebrity Divorce Lawyer
Committing to a domestic partnership or marriage isn’t just a romantic decision; it’s a financial one. Like any other financial decision, you must consider how marriage will affect your finances, business, and personal inheritances.
Start your journey with clear intentions and expectations, and have a conversation about a prenuptial agreement. Understanding where each party stands on finances, future goals, children, and more will strengthen your relationship.
OURS can help with their 100% virtual program, offering two private sessions with a professional therapist and four weeks of engaging weekly content for you and your partner to complete. To begin growing and shaping your relationship into one with more stability and communication before you tie the knot, check out OURS.