When You Absolutely Need a Prenup Agreement

Divorces are usually ugly ordeals and most people tend to avoid thinking about them unless they have to. This is mainly why discussing prenuptial agreements seems so taboo, especially if you’re still enjoying the afterglow of a recent engagement.

Just because it’s hard to talk about doesn’t mean it’s something to avoid, however. Getting a prenup can literally save you a fortune if your marriage takes a turn for the worse. While it isn’t designed to cover issues such as how much child support or alimony a spouse has to pay, prenups serve to keep your premarital assets from being lumped into the community chest when it’s time to split your holdings.

Who Needs a Prenup?

Though getting a prenuptial agreement probably isn’t a bad idea from a legal standpoint if you’re the sole breadwinner or higher earner of the relationship, there are some cases where a person should absolutely consider getting one. Consult an adviser that is well-versed in family law.  If the difference in income and assets between spouses is marginal, discussing a prenup may not be worth the emotional strain that’s bound to occur. However, if that difference is significant, or if one spouse is bringing extra circumstances to the marriage, a prenuptial agreement may be highly recommended.

Here are a few issues to consider when thinking about a prenuptial agreement:

  • Step Children: If you have children from a previous marriage or relationship and you want them to inherit some or all of your estate as opposed to your spouse, you may want to include that in your prenup.
  • Asset Differential: Even if you and your spouse-to-be have similarly valued assets and net worth, you may still want to keep them separate from each other to avoid a messy potential divorce.
  • Business Owner: Entrepreneurs or anyone who has equity in their business may want to protect their interests from exes and their divorce lawyers.
  • Dependents: In addition to children, if you have anyone that you’re caring for such as a parent or relative, you may need a prenup as well.
  • Debt: If your spouse has a mountain of debt strapped to their name, you certainly don’t want any of that on your tab if you guys ever split.

Even if you have a prenuptial agreement signed, it doesn’t guarantee that it is valid. If the contract was based on inaccurate information or one spouse was misled to signing it, a judge can overrule the entire agreement. So if you have any secret savings accounts or investments you’re hiding, it could end up biting you in the end. Full disclosure and complete preparation are important.  A prenuptial agreement isn’t a fly-by-night, do-it-yourself sort of thing–few legal contracts are. No matter how much you love your partner at the moment, you need to approach the situation with a clear and level head. This doesn’t mean you have to be cold and abrasive either, though.

Emotions Get In the Way

Obviously, marriage, and even the process of getting married itself, involves a lot of new feelings and volatile emotions. Most people run the gamut of emotions, going from joy to stress to anger to joy to sadness to happiness to excitement to exasperation and back again. So throwing in a powder keg such as a prenup might be the last thing anyone wants to do.

This is why you and your partner should discuss a prenuptial agreement well in advance, because the farther into the wedding process you wait, the harder it’s going to be. Better yet, broach the subject before the big question is even popped. You’ll have a better understanding of your would-be spouse and expectations are more in line.  You may find that a prenuptial agreement might not even be right for you and your spouse, but it’s better to know than to assume. How you approach the subject really depends on the type of person your spouse is. On the bright side, you should know them better than anyone. After all, aren’t you guys about to get married?

This guest post was written by Go Banking Rates, bringing you informative personal finance content and helpful tools, as well as the best interest rates on financial services nationwide. Follow them on Twitter at @gobankingrates.

Published or Updated: December 21, 2010

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