A prenuptial agreement may be popping up on your radar if you’re getting married in 2020. Maybe you got engaged over the holidays and are starting to plan for your wedding. It is going to be a simple, low-key affair. But as anyone who plans a wedding knows, that can change quickly. You are suddenly faced with all kinds of decisions. The wedding seems to take on a life of its own. And in the middle of all this planning? Your soon to be spouse suggests you get a prenuptial agreement. For many, this feels like an “unromantic” thing to discuss before you get married. You don’t want to think about the possibility you’ll split up when you haven’t even said your “I Do’s” yet. But while you may think of it as unromantic, much like a will, it can be an important part of your financial planning.
What Does A Prenup Do?
Each state has its own rules about what happens to your assets in case your marriage doesn’t work out. Much like creating a will that lets you choose what happens to your assets after you die, a prenuptial agreement lets you choose what happens to your assets in case of a divorce. You can also use it to protect you from liabilities that your soon to be spouse has incurred before you got married.
What Doesn’t A Prenup Do?
You can’t use a prenup to create an illegal agreement (i.e. if you cheat on me, I get to chop off your finger). Another example of a provision that can’t be in a prenuptial agreement is custody of children who haven’t been born yet or limitations on support or other rights for the children.
Do I Need A Lawyer?
As with seemingly every type of agreement these days, if you search hard enough online, you can probably find a website or company that will be happy to sell you a one-size-fits-all form that you can fill in with your soon to be spouse and call it a prenup. But as with many other agreements you can find online, what you pay for may not be what you need. It is probably a better idea to speak to an attorney to discuss whether you really do need a prenup.
Before that meeting, you will want to consider:
- Your goals for a prenup
- A list of your assets and liabilities
Most importantly, you’ll want to have a frank and open discussion with your soon to be spouse. Trying to create a prenup without a discussion is a recipe for disaster. You can end up with hurt feelings and a bit of distrust if it is not something that the two of you have discussed. You can’t “force” someone to sign a prenup – that would invalidate the agreement.
Why Can’t I Just Download One Online?
There can be many perils of just downloading a pre-drafted form online. For example,
I had a couple who when they got married, she lived in Minnesota, he lived in New Jersey. They did a prenup on a website and signed it. They thought they were good, and they came to me as part of their estate plan and they said, “We just need to revoke our prenup.” I looked it over and said, “You don’t need to because it’s not enforceable.” Because the New Jersey side wasn’t done correctly. The Minnesota side wasn’t executed correctly. They had no idea and didn’t know the difference. They lived for about 16 years with the prenup that they thought was valid, but it never would have been valid if it went in front of the court.