Should you get a pre-nup?

While you’ve probably spent hours deciding on which wedding invites to buy or where to place your Aunt Edna on the seating chart, you probably have never thought about your finances-or how to protect them if the marriage ends.  Most people think a prenup is something that only applies to either celebrities or “rich” people ala Brad and Angelina, but the reality is that prenups can be for everyone. Yes, that means you!

According to a survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) from 2013, 63 percent of divorce attorneys said they saw an increase in prenuptial agreements during 2010 through 2013. What’s more, the attorneys noted a dramatic increase in the number of women initiating requests for prenups.  One reason for the increase is due to couples getting married later in life when they are more likely to have assets they want to protect.

What is a prenup?

A prenuptial agreement (“prenup” for short) is a written contract that two people sign  before they are married. Basically, the prenup will establish the property and financial rights of a couple if the marriage were to end.

What does a prenup cover?

According to John Macconi, Jr. of  Macconi Law in Wilmington, Delaware, “because a pre-nuptial agreement is, at its core, just an agreement between two parties to be married, it can cover just about anything – i.e., the parties’ entitlement/non-entitlement to particular assets should the marriage end, how debts would be handled, the issue of alimony, and even certain exclusions to the agreement such that should one of those particular things occur, the agreement would NOT go into effect.” For example, a prenup can cover what happens if one party cheats or where a couple chooses to live.

One issue that can’t be covered in a prenup is anything concerning future children like who would have custody of them or what would be paid in child support.

Should I get a prenup? 

Any attorney will tell you that there is no stock answer to this question. It depends on your circumstances and should be discussed with an attorney. According to Macconi, “someone with a large amount of pre-marital assets, and/or a high likelihood of acquiring such assets after the marriage, or someone with maybe even just one particular, sentimental asset, who wants those things protected should the marriage end would be good, typical candidates for a pre-nup.”  Another “typical” example would be a couple with children from a prior relationship who want to protect those children.

Umm, I’m broke. Why would I need a prenup?

We get it.  You look around at your studio apartment filled with your finds from Ikea and think that you have nothing to protect.  However, according to Macconi “you may still want to consider a pre-nuptial agreement if you have a particular item with sentimental or familial history value that you want protected or if you stand to acquire significant assets during the marriage.”  You may have just graduated from law or medical school and have no assets right now, but that could be very different in 10 or 15 years.

A prenup can also be used for debts, too. If one of you has significant debt, then a prenup can protect the other person. One bride from Princeton confessed that she was worried about her future husband’s $250,000 student loan debt from law school when she had no debt and significant savings.  In her case, a prenup could be warranted.

Don’t prenups mean we’re already thinking of divorce? 

Discussing a prenuptial agreement is not going to be featured in any rom-com anytime soon. It does seem unromantic.  But in a study done by YourTango, 86% of experts polled agree that a prenup has no predictable impact on a marriage with regard to the couples likelihood of divorce.

Think of discussing a prenup as an opportunity to be honest with each other as to what debts and assets you each have and how you two will manage money after you get married. How much does he have in his IRA? Does he know what you have in outstanding student loans or credit card debt? Another bride was shocked to realize, after her wedding, that her now-husband had over $150,000 in student loans and non-existent savings. While she still would have married him, she stated that “if I had known, I would have planned a less expensive wedding and honeymoon.” Another found out after the wedding that her husband had $10,000 in credit card debt that he intended to payoff with the money they received from the wedding as gifts. She was shocked as she thought that money would be used for a down payment for a house. 



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