How Does a Prenup Work?

do I need a prenup?

Prenuptial agreements get a bad rap.

Though yes, prenups are designed to determine what you would need to pay or give up in the event of a divorce, the reality is, all couples essentially sign such an agreement when they get married.

For couples without a prenup, that division of assets is determined by the laws of their state. But with a prenup, it’s up to you and your partner to set the terms.

In this way, prenups can also be a valuable way of initiating an open and honest dialogue around money before marriage.

The great thing about these agreements is that they’re customizable, so you can choose to include (or not include) whatever actually matters to you and your partner.

Considering financial issues are a leading cause of divorce, the process of putting together a prenuptial agreement can offer an opportunity to address your respective finances with your partner - making sure you’ve talked through things like disparate incomes and debt, and how you plan to manage your finances together as you move forward into marriage.

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This upfront discussion in and of itself can help you avoid potentially nasty surprises once you’ve already said ‘I do’.

Beyond questions of alimony, and how you’ll split assets, property and debt, prenuptial agreements can also include lifestyle clauses, like who gets custody of the dog in the event of a divorce.

The great thing about these agreements is that they’re customizable, so you can choose to include (or not include) whatever actually matters to you and your partner – like your reputation on social media. (Yes, you can actually include a clause that says you and your ex won’t trash each other publicly in the event of a divorce).

Though keep in mind that frivolous lifestyle clauses in a prenup could potentially become cause for a judge to invalidate your prenup during divorce proceedings if those clauses are not considered legally enforceable, invalidating your contract.

While putting together a contract with your partner may not feel like the most romantic part of your engagement, remember that marriage in and of itself is a legal contract. You wouldn’t want to enter into any other contract without making sure you’re protected. You and your partner should remember: A prenup allows you the opportunity to offer each other that same protection.

At it’s heart, talking through your prenuptial agreement is really just an extension of your conversations around planning for the future.

When you bring up the prenup conversation with your partner, be sure to address these practicalities so the suggestion isn’t seen as a judgment of his or her behaviors.

At it’s heart, talking through your prenuptial agreement is really just an extension of your conversations around planning for the future in a way that’s customized to your unique circumstances and priorities as a couple.

The sooner you can initiate that conversation, the better. You’ll each need to hire a lawyer and spend some time talking through the specifics of your agreement, so you don’t want to wait until you’re less than a week out from the wedding to get it all figured out.

While putting together a contract with your partner may not feel like the most romantic part of your engagement, remember that marriage in and of itself is a legal contract. You wouldn’t want to enter into any other contract without making sure you’re protected.

If you’re already married, or don’t manage to get your prenuptial agreement in place before the wedding, you can always opt for a postnup, which is essentially the same thing as a prenup, except it happens after the wedding.

Even with a prenuptial agreement, it’s never a bad idea to keep things updated in an official capacity after marriage, especially as you experience major life changes like buying and selling property or the receipt of an inheritance.

To help you talk through the details of a prenuptial or post agreement as it pertains to you and your partner, you should each work with a lawyer who specializes in family law. Your attorney can offer valuable advice about what to include and what steps you should take to make sure your agreement is both effective and enforceable.