To Half and to Hold: Prenuptial Agreements

People call me all the time to ask about prenuptial agreements.

What are they? Who needs one?

Ask yourself why you think you may need a prenuptial agreement.

  1. Do you need to protect the interests of your children who are from a previous relationship in the event you divorce?
  2. Are you marrying someone who has a lot more money than you, or is likely to inherit a lot of money?
  3. Are you young and come from an affluent family and your parents are telling you that you need to get one?
  4. Does your fiancé have a lot of debt? (Beyond student loans as those are exempt from California community property division.)
  5. Do you have a business that is likely to grow?
  6. Were you burned in your last divorce and vowed never to let that happen again?
  7. Do you have relatives with special needs that you need to support?
  8. Do you have a fundamental non-belief in paying (or receiving) spousal support?
  9. Do you own patents, movie rights, manuscripts, songs you’ve written or recorded? Are you a writer? Are you an actor who will receive residuals?
  10. Life insurance: Do you intend to get any and name your partner as beneficiary? Is that important to you? To him/her?
  11. Do you own a house that your fiancé is moving into? Are you going to make payments on that property during marriage? How is title held?

By no means is this list exhaustive. There is no formula for a prenuptial agreement. It is unique–it is about you. Your life which now is going to be forever shared with The One.  At least that is the goal. Until it isn’t; and that is not when you want to first be looking up the word prenuptial.

Most people would benefit by doing a few things before they take those vows:

  1. Learn what a prenuptial agreement is and what it is not.
  2. Next, ask yourself honestly if you think you want or need one.
  3. After completing steps 1 and 2, talk with your intended partner about this.

It is critical that you do these steps in the right order. Most people don’t. They approach it in reverse which is exactly what you should not do. Don’t be one of those people. Nothing gets resolved. Feelings get hurt and the topic is buried forever.

You don’t necessarily have to get a prenuptial agreement as the law may give you all the protection you need without one. But you do need to learn about these agreements. You have to discuss it with your intended life partner and then make a decision together. You need to do this at least six months before you get married. You need to talk about money. You need to admit that you don’t know how to talk about money. You need to do it anyway. Talk to a lawyer and a financial advisor–not your best friend, or your brother, or the guy at the gym. Someone qualified. Talk to more than one professional person. Once you get the information in front of you this decision will become a practical one.  The fear that results from ignorance will be gone and sanity can guide you.

You have to decide a lot of big things:

Kids? Working parents with childcare or stay-at-home parent?  Where are you going to live? Vacations. Religion(s). Dog and/or cat.

These are elephants in the room that do not magically disappear on their own. Do yourself, your fiancé and your marriage a huge favor. Tackle the elephants head on.

It’s worth it. Your fairytale awaits. Make it a happy well-informed one.