|Prenuptial agreements are like insurance policies. You do the paperwork, then hope you'll never need it. However, since half of marriages end in divorce within the first seven years, you may want to consider a prenuptial agreement before you walk down the aisle and say, "I do."
Since you could later be engaged in a nasty, costly, and emotionally draining divorce some day, you should consider a prenuptial agreement as a precaution. Below we have given you some information on what is in a prenuptial agreement and whether it could be useful for you.
A prenuptial or antenuptial agreement is a document signed by two people who intend to be married. It describes their rights and obligations should they get divorced. A prenuptial agreement informs the court how they want their assets and property divided up.
Divorces become messy when parties cannot agree on the distribution of property, such things as the house, the house, stocks, and bonds and whether one party should pay the other alimony, now known as "maintenance" in most states. Assume that the husband has $1,000,000 in his own name prior to the marriage. A properly drafted prenuptial agreement can award that same $1,000,000 to him after a divorce, notwithstanding what he does with the money, such as purchasing a home in joint tenancy or shifting the money into other accounts. Without a prenuptial agreement, the wife might be entitled to one-half of the $1,000,000 or more, depending on the financial circumstances of the parties at the time of the divorce. The prenuptial agreement is a powerful and valuable tool that can favor the husband, protect the wife, or serve both of them fairly. It is a question of circumstances and intentions.
Candidates for prenuptial agreements used to be just older individuals with huge estates that they wanted to protect from gold diggers for their children from previous marriages. Since more millionaires are born every day, the candidate pool is growing by leaps and bounds. Now everybody has something to protect: an unpublished author, the budding inventor, anybody with a lucrative profession or a good idea. So, before you dismiss the idea of a prenuptial agreement, assess your situation in life and your long-term future in deciding whether a prenuptial agreement is right for you.
Consider at length the nature and extent of your present and possible future assets. A prenuptial agreement can be a very simple document running only a few pages that segregates each party's assets owned before the marriage, or it can be a very complicated document that runs dozens of pages because it deals with income and assets acquired during the marriage, the payment of debts, attorneys' fees, alimony/maintenance, and other financial matters. The next hurdle is raising the issue with your intended spouse, a very unromantic event. It helps to get it over with early. Perhaps you could blame it on someone else, such as your parents who may want to involve you in a family business, or possible business partners.
If you have no one to hold responsible, just be honest. Tell your future spouse that you intend to be open, fair, and honest, and the fact that you will be revealing all your assets is a sign of trust. Assure your intended that he or she will be protected during the negotiation procedure and in the prenuptial agreement, and stress that the document is something you feel is necessary and wise before you get married. The most important thing is to discuss it earlier instead of later, so that the degree of pressure before the wedding is mitigated.
Couples do not usually break engagements because of disputes over prenuptial agreements. In almost every instance, the agreement is signed and the parties are married. It is also completely appropriate to state that you will not get married without a prenuptial agreement; case law has indicated that this will not invalidate an agreement if made before the wedding.
The best way to avoid charges of duress or coercion is to tell your future spouse early on that you want the prenuptial agreement. Sometimes, such documents are signed shortly before the wedding, but have been the subject of negotiation for months. A well-drafted agreement will recite the fact that, even though it was signed shortly before or on the wedding date, negotiations began much earlier. It is for clauses like this that you consult experts.
Eventually, a prenuptial agreement will be fashioned so that you and your future spouse both accept it. The terms may not be what you initially envisioned and may not be what your intended would want. but that is the nature of compromise.
About the author:
Jeffrey Broobin is a free-lance writer on family and finance issues; his main goal is to help people during their complicated period of life.
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