You Get a Prenup! And You Get a Prenup!
Once upon a time, I married my college sweetheart. I had no assets and only heaps of student loan debt to my name. I didn’t think that I could benefit from a prenuptial agreement because I had “nothing to protect.” I thought that prenups were only for rich people and celebrities. They were taboo, and meant that you only cared about money and not about love. Younger me was uninformed and misguided by common negative stereotypes associated with prenuptial agreements. But after resolving hundreds of divorces over the years, the more experienced and wiser me knows better. In this post, we hope to smash the stigma surrounding prenups and offer a new perspective about why everyone should consider entering into one prior to saying “I do,” no matter the tax bracket.
Prenups create a binding contract between spouses that create clear, agreed-upon expectations in the event that the marriage terminates. These agreements are well-known in the divorce context, but a marriage can also be terminated in the event of the death of one of the spouses. Prenups can address both of these scenarios and create differing terms based upon how the marriage ends.
Contrary to popular belief, prenups are not just for the super-wealthy— they are a wise choice for everyone! Prenups not only designate how assets will be divided at the time of divorce, but they also address how DEBTS will be assigned at the time of divorce. The debt of both parties is pooled into the marital estate including pre-marital debt and debt that is only in one party’s name, such as credit cards. This means that you could end up sharing responsibility for debt that you did not know your spouse was incurring. Prenups set clear guidelines for how debts will be shared in the case of divorce to protect you and avoid this potential nightmare scenario. In addition, if you own a business or contemplate ever starting a business one day in the future, protecting this asset in a prenup is essential.
Like it or not, the reality is that the divorce rate remains high in the United States. Approximately 50% of all marriages end in divorce, and the percentages increase to 67% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages. It can be helpful to reframe prenuptial agreements as “marriage insurance.” A small investment now can save you and your spouse tens of thousands of dollars in future attorney’s fees, and designate certain assets as your own separate property not subject to division. Entering into a prenup does NOT mean that you don’t plan to stay married to your partner. Instead, it is a smart and mature choice to protect both parties from life’s uncertainties.
Take it from a divorce attorney—many divorce cases languish in litigation for so long because the parties are overcome with pained emotions such as anger, disappointment, despair, and resentment which cloud a fair and reasonable settlement of the case. This makes sense, because there is a reason why the relationship has broken down (many times relating to a breach of trust). But when a couple agrees to terms in a prenup while they are still on good terms, they are being guided by a sense of love, respect, and, most importantly, fairness towards their partner resulting in more rational, reasonable, and equitable outcomes for both parties. Entering into a prenup is actually a sign of deep love and respect for your future spouse.
Now that we have dispelled many common myths about prenups, we hope that you will commit to spreading the good word about them too. If you or someone you love is considering a prenup, or you have more questions on this topic, please don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with us to discuss your personal situation.
P.S.- Think you missed the boat? In Massachusetts, it’s also possible to enter into a post-nuptial agreement after you are married!