Prenuptial Agreements: Are They Right For You?

If you are planning to get married, you have a lot of things to consider: where to have the wedding, where the two of you will live, whether and when you will have children. One sensitive topic that couples must discuss is whether they should have a prenuptial agreement, commonly called a prenup. When used appropriately, a prenuptial agreement can help a couple to identify and achieve their goals when it comes to finances and estate planning. Here are some considerations to keep in mind.

Prenups are not only for wealthy people.

If you and your fiance are not high earners, you might immediately disregard the suggestion of having a prenup drawn up. While the most famous prenuptial agreements tend to be between celebrities or other rich-and-famous types, this is more because the people themselves are well-known, and not because prenups are limited to that type of situation. The fact is, anyone who wants to ensure that their assets are distributed as they want them to be in the case of divorce or death is a good candidate for a prenuptial agreement.

Prenups can be important for people who already have children.

If you have children from another relationship, you might want to carefully consider having a prenuptial agreement drawn up, particularly if you own your own business or you are in a community property state. The reason for this is because if you do end up divorcing or dying, you might not be able to guarantee that your assets are distributed to your children before your surviving spouse. In some cases, you might not be concerned about this, but in others, passing along your money or your business to your children might be your main goal. If you have a family business that should go to your sibling or a niece or nephew, the same consideration might apply.

Each member of a couple should have an attorney representing them.

It sounds unromantic, but both members of the couple should have someone looking out for their best interests when it comes to drawing up the prenuptial agreement. Why? It's possible for the spouse who earns less money to give up rights that they might be better off keeping. For example, if one member of the couple stays home to raise children, the temporary lack of earning should be considered when the prenuptial agreement is made. It's possible to use the same attorney, but in that case, he or she might act as more of a mediator, rather than representing the spouse who earns more (or who is expected to earn more).

The prenup should be between the husband and wife.

This point might sound obvious, but sometimes a prenuptial agreement is insisted upon by the larger earner's parents or relatives. While it's understandable that parents want to look out for their adult child's best interests (particularly when an inheritance or a family business is responsible for his or her success), it's usually better for family relations if relatives stay out of it. If your parents (or the parents of your fiance) are pushing for a prenup, it might be safer to ask them to step aside and to let you handle it without their input.

Although no one wants to think about divorce when they are planning a wedding (and a lifelong marriage), some pragmatism can be beneficial. Also, in almost all marriages, one member of the couple precedes the other in death, and a prenup can make sure that the deceased's wishes are followed, particularly in community property states. Talk to a lawyer like those at Hurth Sisk & Blakemore LLP to decide whether a prenup is right for you.