When Is A Prenuptial Agreement A Good Idea?

Posted on June 24th, 2013, by David Williamson in Family Law. Comments Off on When Is A Prenuptial Agreement A Good Idea?

Premarital AgreementThere are very few things in life that rival marriage in terms of the sheer happiness it can induce in those who meet the right people. The trust, the intimacy, the love: beautiful examples of the joy one can take from life. Unfortunately, on the opposite side of the spectrum, when a marriage collapses and the two parties go their separate ways the emptiness, the hurt and the eventual stress can corrupt those happy memories and leave either party with nothing but a miserable experience that they would prefer not to risk again.

Prenuptial agreements are the defender of this. They ascertain pre-determined conditions which are designed to protect not only the union itself, but also the interest of either party. Here’s when they can be used and why you should at least consider creating one before your wedding.

Practical Prenups:

One of the most blatant misconceptions about the humble prenup is their apparent leaning towards the financial side of a relationship. While it is fair to state that this is, of course, a priority for many, the actual practicality of a prenup goes much further.

A prenup is in no way, shape, or form a document to protect only the very rich. Even if you are of (relatively) average means, a prenup is still wholly applicable to yourself if you’re considering getting married. For example, for people with little-to-no investments, a minor disposable income, modest savings and no substantial property, things such as who takes ownership of any cars, pets or personal property can also be determined. Another important aspect to consider often overlooked by most couples, is that of debt.  Does your fiancé or spouse-to-be carry substantial debt? If so, do you want to become burdened with this should a split occur? This matter can be easily resolved through a prenup.

Considerations for a Prenup:

The main problem when considering whether or not to bring up the topic of a prenuptial agreement with your significant other, is the risk of those blatant accusations that seemingly come hand in hand with wanting to protect your assets. It’s easy to see why someone may become slightly upset or frustrated upon proposal of a document that prevents them from claiming x amount of their spouse-to-be’s finances should a divorce ever occur.

Unfortunately this is a tricky situation. Signed documents and official disclosures don’t particularly scream romance. That being said, the signing of a prenup doesn’t need to be an overly serious affair.  If the consideration is posed in a calm and sensible manner and the other party is made 100% aware of the reasons behind the concerns or behind the clauses in the document, there’s no reason for anybody to get upset. After all, this is not an admission of defeat but rather a fail-safe for the future. Remember, in an age where (in the USA) roughly one half of all marriages sadly end in divorce, it’s fundamental to prepare for the worst and foolish to allow the clouds of young love make you feel exempt from these statistics.

Only for the Old:

Another false preconception is that of the basic demographic prenuptial agreements appear to be aimed at. People appear to commonly assume that a prenup is a tool of the older generation; leaving too many young people not properly considering creating one before getting married. However, for young people, fresh out of college, well-educated and with a thriving career ahead, professional success will likely grow with your marriage. You may amass a small collection of cars, a large family home and maybe even a business – things that you don’t want to see collapse completely should the marriage not work.

One other consideration: if you have a wealthy family member who will eventually leave a rather large inheritance, a well-drafted prenuptial agreement will cover all angles and ensure that only the person who was the intended recipient of the inheritance will walk away with it should a marriage collapse.

In these cases, though, should your personal wealth/responsibilities amass/change radically during the marriage, one can always consider a post-nuptial agreement. This handy document is exactly the same as the prenup, holding the same legal weight. The only difference: it’s drafted post-nuptial, i.e. after the wedding.

Prenuptial Agreements – Good or Bad?

Fundamentally, a case could be made for whether a prenup is a precursor to failure; sucking the risk and excitement out of the union of two people and turning the whole affair into a rather bureaucratic bore. While I wouldn’t attach myself personally to this camp, I can see the thinking. Bear in mind, though, that marriage is a contract – just like your employment contract, your rental contract and every other official document you have ever signed in your life. Putting in appropriate fail-safes for the future can also prevent any major complications after a potential breakup; allowing for a fast, stress-free divorce. Moreover, by drafting a prenup and avoiding a messy divorce, it’s quite possible that the memory of the union may not be corrupted by stressful proceedings after it falls apart. Therefore, while a prenup will not ultimately save a marriage, it will make one easier, and may even preserve the memory of that marriage after it’s sadly fallen apart.

If you’re considering drafting a prenup before your marriage in Virginia, get in touch with the Livesay & Myers family law team to discuss how they can improve your situation. For people who are seeking comprehensive information and/or live in the UK, though, pay a visit to Coles Solicitors UK’s specialist family law team who can not only help you draft an air-tight document, but help with all aspects of the document’s arrangement, such as what one should include and how they may help your individual circumstances.

This is a guest post by David Williamson. He is an experienced legal writer and guest blogger. Follow him on twitter.

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