There are lots of last-minute details that pop up when you’re in the throes of wedding planning; however, a prenuptial agreement (also known as a premarital agreement) shouldn’t be left to the last minute. Here’s a list of issues to think about before you speak to your fiancé and your lawyer regarding a premarital agreement. It often helps to know your own feelings about these issues before approaching your fiancé about them:
"Premarital" assets are any assets that you acquired before your marriage to your fiancé. This can be any type of property, such as your savings and brokerage accounts, pensions and retirement funds earned up through the date of the wedding, a car, jewelry, a home, or employee stock options. Premarital assets fall under that category of “separate” property in California, along with any gifts or inheritance you received either before or during the marriage. Generally speaking, separate property belongs to the spouse that acquired it.
Before entering into a prenup, you’ll want to make an exhaustive list of all assets and debts you own; both spouses must make full and fair disclosures to the other about all of their assets and debts. It’s also good practice to be up front and straightforward in your discussions about financial issues with your soon-to-be spouse.
Below are some questions to think about once you’ve made your list of premarital assets and debts:
Marital property describes the assets and debts that you will accumulate as a couple, once you're married. Below are some questions to think about regarding marital property:
People tend to be either spenders or savers. Given that opposites attract, it’s typical for a couple to have very different money styles. That can work out just fine, provided that you each know about the other’s priorities and goals and provided you can work out a way for each person’s needs to be met. For example, one partner might be concerned about retirement savings and future security. The other partner may feel that money is to be enjoyed and spent for things like vacations and luxury vehicles as part of a well-lived life. Can these styles be reconciled? The answer is yes, of course, provided that you have a plan for what will be set aside for retirement and what’s available to use for enjoyment. Some questions to ask yourself regarding the management of assets and income are:
Have you seen each other’s credit reports? Now might be a good time to have a serious talk about credit scores and priorities with respect to paying off old debt or accumulating new debt. Consider some of the following questions:
What are your views on non-monetary contributions, like raising children or managing the household? Most states recognize these types of contributions during a marriage, but it’s important that you share your attitude, and that you know your fiancé’s attitude about these types of roles in a marriage. Below you will find some questions to think about in regards to work:
How do you feel about alimony, also called spousal support? You don’t have to address this in your agreement if you don’t want to, but it makes sense to talk about it. Some issues you may want to talk about are the following:
This discussion may be difficult to have while you and your partner are trying to plan a romantic wedding celebration, but if you want to enter into a prenuptial, a conversation that covers these and other topics is essential.
In order to make sure your prenup is going to be found valid and enforceable, it’s best if it's written by attorneys, and that both you and your spouse have independent counsel that can provide individual advice on each person’s rights and responsibilities. You cannot have one attorney represent you both. An attorney can explain how specific terms in a prenup will affect your rights, and can negotiate for changes to the agreement on your behalf.
If you have questions about a prenuptial agreement, you should contact an experienced family law attorney in your area for help.