If you and/or your partner are experiencing anxiety around marriage, you’re not alone! It’s a common feeling to experience, and for a good reason. Your life is doing a 180– once married; you are essentially merging two people into one, creating an extreme shift in your daily routine, finances, priorities, relationship roles, and much more. But what is there to do about it? Of course, there are things like therapy, couple’s counseling, and communication strategies that you can utilize, but there’s also a little thing called a “prenup,” which you can utilize to help minimize some of that anxiety from a practical perspective. Let’s discuss the ways a prenup can reduce marriage anxiety, followed by some frequently asked questions.
What is a prenup?
First things first: what is a prenup? It’s a legal document that outlines assets, debt, alimony (and much more) during the marriage, in case of divorce, and sometimes death. It must be signed before the wedding takes place and follow the legal requirements laid out by the state.
What is less frequently understood about prenups is that they are actually just as much emotional documents as they are financial ones. That’s right–a prenup can have a ton of emotional benefits, such as facilitating in-depth communication, creating a space for financial transparency, aligning the couple on their goals, and setting expectations for the marriage, roles, divorce, and death.
Remember, prenups should benefit both parties in some way. One person should not be zooming off in their Maserati while the other meanders over to the homeless shelter. The purpose of a prenup is not to protect one person only— it should be to make both people comfortable in case of a divorce and also to set marital expectations. (Note: that doesn’t mean the prenup HAS to be 50/50; it just means there should be a level of reasonableness to the agreement).
The financial benefits of having a prenup
Before we dive into some of the more nuanced ways in which a prenup can help minimize marriage anxiety, let’s talk about the financial benefits that come along with getting a prenup.
Will you two use a joint bank account? Separate accounts? If you’re using a joint bank account, how will you withdraw and deposit from that account? Will one person be the homemaker while the other works and supports the family? What happens in a divorce?
The answer to the above questions will translate directly into different provisions in your contract, so the conversation(s) must be had! The bottom line is that a prenup can establish clear expectations for financial matters during the marriage and in the event of divorce.
Protection of assets
The bread and butter of a prenup are the protection of assets. Maybe Spouse A really wants to protect a plot of land that they own, while Spouse B is mainly focused on protecting their future inheritance. These types of assets, and many more, can be kept separate in the event of a divorce.
Another way to protect your assets is to prevent your future self from being responsible for your partner’s debts. Yes, a prenup can address how debt will be allocated in the event of separation or divorce. You can make sure that all debt accrued both before the marriage and during the marriage stays with the person who actually borrowed the money.
Spousal support (a.k.a. Alimony or maintenance)
Spousal support, sometimes referred to as alimony or maintenance, is the financial support from one ex-spouse to the other. You can protect your future self from paying this money by waiving alimony (or limiting it) in your prenup.
Avoiding costly litigation
Not only can you protect your money with a variety of different mechanisms found in a prenup, but you can also minimize your litigation costs. How? A prenup predetermines issues that you would normally (without a prenup) have to “argue” over in court or with attorneys (which ain’t free!). In other words, a prenup can be a fast-track ticket to a cheaper and quicker divorce because you have already addressed and decided on certain issues.
Along the vein of financial benefits is the estate planning benefit that can follow the creation of a prenup. What do we mean by that? Well, prenups can play an important role in creating a comprehensive estate plan for when you die.
Prenups can include instructions for how assets should be handled in the event of either spouse’s death. This is typically done with a death clause which lays out different stipulations for what should happen in death. A death clause might require the separate property of one or both spouses to pass through their estate plan (i.e., the will or trust laid out in the estate plan). In other words, they don’t want their separate property to go to their spouse; they want it to go to their listed beneficiaries in their will.
Ways that a prenup can reduce marriage anxiety
Okay, so now that you understand the main financial benefits of a prenup, we can dive into the lesser-known ways a prenup can reduce marriage anxiety outside of simply saving money.
Prenups promote financial transparency. One major requirement that nearly every state mandates is financial disclosure. Financial disclosure occurs during the prenup-making process and requires both spouses to put all their cards on the table regarding finances. In other words, both spouses must disclose all assets, income, debt, and future inheritances (estimates).
The financial disclosure process can encourage honesty and openness between a couple, ultimately building trust and preventing some of the potential future conflicts that may arise due to finances. By sharing finances in such a raw and open way, it helps create a foundation for their financial future together as one team. This, in turn, can help reduce anxiety and promote a healthier, more stable relationship.
The nature of getting a prenup promotes open and honest communication between future spouses. When creating a prenup, the parties are required to have frank discussions about their finances, life goals, money goals, marital expectations, divorce expectations, and even topics surrounding death. By discussing these hard-hitting topics ahead of time and creating a plan to address them, couples can avoid misunderstandings in the future.
Prenups are legal documents that predetermine certain issues that may arise in a divorce, such as dividing up property, whether or not to pay alimony, how debt should be split up, and more. By agreeing on prenup terms long before a divorce is ever even a thought in one of the spouse’s minds, the partners can make sure that their true intentions and desires are met through the negotiation of the prenup. In other words, having a prenup can reduce the likelihood of disputes and arguments in the event of a separation. This can help prevent a great deal of stress and anxiety during what can be a difficult time.
A prenup essentially streamlines the divorce process by having the big topics already decided upon. This saves not only time but also money. Saving time and money? Reducing stress and anxiety.
What happens when you add up financial transparency, in-depth communication, and conflict resolution? You get spousal alignment! The nature of a prenup alone helps to facilitate spousal alignment in marriage, divorce, and death. You are quite literally signing off (in writing) on what you two agree to.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about prenups and anxiety
Q: Will creating a prenup damage my relationship with my partner?
A: We can’t say exactly what would break or damage a relationship without understanding the full picture, but generally, creating a prenup can actually strengthen trust and communication between the two parties.
Q: What issues can a prenup address?
A: A prenup can address property division, spousal support (i.e., alimony), debt allocation, inheritances, gifts, insurance, death, confidentiality, social media, pet custody, joint bank accounts during the marriage, and much more.
Q: When should I bring up the topic of a prenup?
A: It’s best to bring up the topic early in the engagement before any wedding planning has started. We recommend starting the prenup process three to six months prior to the wedding day to ensure ample time for prenup discussions, negotiations, and finalization.
Q: What if my partner doesn’t want a prenup?
A: If you’ve exhausted all avenues (communication, therapy, lawyers, etc.) to attempt to come to an agreement with your partner, you will need to accept their final decision and respect it (or move on from the relationship).
Q: Can a prenup be changed after it’s created?
A: Yes, prenups can be amended after the wedding day, as long as you follow the requirements laid out by your state (and your spouse agrees to the changes).
Prenups can do more than just protect your assets. It can actually help set expectations, create spousal alignment, facilitate in-depth communication, conflict resolution, and much more. The bottom line? Prenups can help reduce marriage anxiety in more ways than one.
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]