Congratulations on your engagement!
Before you dive into choosing your venue and refining the guest list for your upcoming nuptials, take a beat to think about your prenuptial agreement.
Not every couple thinks they need a prenup, but of the estimated 2.2 million who will be wed in 2023, every single duo does. Despite the myriad of misinformed pop culture references to prenuptial agreements, these legal contracts don’t have to burst the romantic, post-proposal bubble.
Rather, when approached properly and delicately, prenups can signal to your soon-to-be-spouse a commitment to their personal wellbeing and a willingness to invest in the future of your relationship. Read on to uncover common prenup myths, the hidden benefits of a prenuptial agreement, and why every loving couple needs one.
What is a prenup?
The primary purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to protect the individual assets of each spouse, set ground rules for property division, and outline financial obligations in the event the relationship ends in divorce.
The terms of your prenuptial agreement will be unique to your situation, and are typically decided in an open, collaborative process between you, your fiancé, and your respective legal councils. Prenups are signed and enacted prior to the marriage date, though post-nups can be executed to amend or refine prenuptial agreements after the wedding day.
Property division, sans prenup, can be an arduous process. While the judge assigned will always work toward total equanimity between divorcing spouses, it can be time-consuming and might not work out in your favor.
Common myths about prenuptial agreements
Radio hits and Hallmark flicks have contributed to the widespread misinformation about prenups, but thankfully, experienced legal experts are working to demystify the prenuptial process.
A few of the pervasive prenup myths circulating in the media are:
- Very few people actually sign prenups.
- Prenups are only for the wealthy.
- Prenuptial agreements are an antiquated tradition.
- Signing a prenup can doom your marriage.
- Prenuptial agreements are only useful in divorce proceedings.
- Prenups unfairly favor one spouse.
- Needing a prenuptial agreement is a sign of an unstable relationship.
- The courts will not uphold the agreements outlined in the prenup.
Contrary to these so-called popular beliefs, more millennial couples are signing prenups than in decades past. Four in ten adults in the U.S. support the utilization of prenuptial agreements, recent data shows, and 35% plan to sign one when they marry in the future.
While the movies might portray prenups as something belonging only to male members of the upper class, prenuptial agreements must be fair to all to be considered valid. The legal contract must protect the interests and assets of both partners, and can be thrown out if one spouse signed the agreement under duress or coercion.
Wealth isn’t the only thing contributing to the rising popularity of prenups either — millennials are the poorest generation in recent history. Debts, like assets, must be divided.
Why do I need a prenuptial agreement?
In the simplest of terms, prenups make the divorce process simpler, smoother, and faster. Though it is a core concern, prenuptial agreements aren’t actually just about divorce. The legal contract also covers other worst-case scenarios, like what living partners are entitled to receive if their spouse passes away.
Signing a prenup won’t increase the chances of divorce or spousal death, the same way that signing up for car insurance doesn’t increase your chances of getting into an accident.
Prenups are, indeed, a form of relationship insurance that every couple should invest in, especially if they have any of the following to consider:
- Tangible assets owned prior to the marriage like properties, land plots, homes, vehicles, furniture, jewelry, or artwork.
- Intangible assets like income streams, investments, savings accounts, stocks, pensions, and dividends.
- Debt of any kind, from credit cards to student, business, or personal loans.
- A fully or partially owned business.
- A stake in the family business or enterprise.
- Plans to start a family.
- Children from before the marriage or a previous marriage.
- An inheritance, forthcoming or previously received.
- Pets from before the marriage or plans to get new pets.
- Previous marriages that ended in divorce.
You already have a prenup, whether you’re aware of it or not.
If your circumstances don’t align with any of the above criteria, you and your future spouse should still invest in a prenuptial agreement. Why? Even if you don’t have a written, contractual agreement, you do still have a prenup: the baseline divorce laws of your state.
New Mexico, alongside a handful of other regions, is both a no-fault divorce state and community property divorce state. The former indicates that the potential impropriety of your spouse does not factor into the property division process, regardless of what your marriage vows entailed.
This includes economic and emotional wrongdoings, from malfeasance in the form of infidelity to poor investments and debt accumulation. In a community property divorce state, all assets acquired during your marriage are owned by you and your spouse jointly — this, unfortunately, also includes debts.
Working with a competent, accomplished attorney throughout the property division procedure can mitigate some of the stress that comes with divorce, but enacting a prenup prior to dissolution eradicates the need for the process all together.
3 main benefits of a prenuptial agreement
1 – Feel confident about the trajectory of your marriage.
Having a prenup that equally protects both partners is a way of telling your soon-to-be-spouse that you respect them and their autonomy. It signals that you care and are invested in their wellbeing, regardless of potential future circumstances.
2 – Save time, money, and stress during the divorce process.
Divorce can be a costly process on all fronts, and puts inordinate strain on both partners, their children, and even pets in the home. Avoid adding unnecessary pressure to an already-tense relationship by settling asset distribution before things reach an emotional fever pitch.
3 – Protect the assets that are most important to you.
Don’t leave your education funds, beloved collections, plots of land, vintage vehicles, or heirloom jewelry up to your state’s default divorce laws. Delineate finances, properties, and alimony details in your prenup.
Connect with the qualified legal team at Sutherland Family Law to discuss creative solutions for safeguarding your assets and protecting your partner’s future with an equitable prenuptial agreement.