As you plan for your future together, it’s important to consider all aspects of your relationship, including financial matters. One topic that may come up is the idea of a prenuptial agreement or prenup for short. While it may not be the most comfortable conversation to have, discussing a prenup with your future spouse can help set clear expectations and protect both of your interests in the event of a future separation. If you think about it that way, it is sort of romantic.
Here are some tips for approaching the topic of a prenup with your future spouse:
Understand what you want out of the prenup
While it might be tempting, try to prep yourself before you have this sit-down conversation with your partner. The main thing you should be thinking about is: What do you want out of the prenup? Do you want to mostly protect your inheritance? Maybe it’s your inheritance and your apartment complex. Or your retirement fund. Or your dog! Whatever your goal is with the prenup, you should solidify it. List out your top five objectives. This can help center you and remember what’s important if things get hairy.
Not sure what your objective is? No worries, we’ll give you some food for thought:
- Do you want to protect any real estate?
- Do you want to protect certain accounts, such as a checking account or brokerage account?
- How do you want income received during the marriage to be treated? If you wind up getting that $500,000 commission check… what happens to it?
- Do you want to protect your retirement fund? Maybe you have a 401k or pension.
- What about future inheritances? Are you expecting any large amounts of money in the future?
- Have you given thought to alimony? Whether you would be on the receiving or paying end, it might be good to mull over.
- Do you or your partner have a lot of debt? Student loans, credit cards, etc. Do you want to protect yourself against their debt?
- Are you going to be a stay-at-home parent, or do you make significantly less than your partner? Maybe you want to consider wealth equalization clauses, like a lump sum payment.
- Do you have pets that you want to protect and ensure you retain ownership?
- Are you concerned about protecting your kids from a previous marriage? If so, you might consider a death clause or other ways to protect your finances that may go to your kids.
- Maybe you’re concerned with infidelity and want to add a “no-cheating” clause. Beware: infidelity clauses in prenups are often rejected by courts, but some states may uphold them.
The takeaway? Make sure you know what you want out of this prenup, so you can maintain a transparent and open line of communication with your partner. Keeping the conversation to the point can help eliminate any confusion on their end, as well. You wouldn’t want them thinking they’re out to “get them” with the prenup. You simply want to do X.
Try to anticipate what your partner may want out of the prenup
You know what you want out of the prenup, but what do they want? Try to anticipate what your partner’s goals might be with a prenup. You may not know a ton about your partner’s finances yet, but you probably have an idea. Let’s say you have a ton of debt, but your partner doesn’t. They may be interested in protecting themselves against your debt. You could open the conversation by mentioning that the prenup could include debt provisions protecting them!
Or maybe you know that your partner’s parents will be giving you a large wedding gift, like a “starter” house. You can mention how those types of gifts can be kept separate in the prenup to your partner’s benefit!
Whatever your situation is, there is something for everyone in a prenup. We can’t tell you what your partner wants; you’re going to have to think about this one on your own. You can refer to the section above to get a refresher on what might go in a prenup.
Try to anticipate the emotional response from your partner
You should know your partner better than anyone else in the world. Try to imagine their reaction to the prenup conversation. Will they cry? Will they throw their water in your face? Maybe they’ll give you the silent treatment. Or maybe they’ll be super receptive to it! Whatever it might be, try to anticipate their emotional response. This can help you prepare your response(s) and tailor it to their needs.
For example, if your partner might get super hurt and sad, you might want to come in full force with love and reassurance. Maybe also prepare yourself mentally for any backlashes to help you remain calm. It’s natural to have an emotional response to an emotional response.
Handling your partner’s emotions is truly half the battle. Once you can set aside the emotions, it clears the way for open and honest conversation.
Educate your partner on prenups (in a non-patronizing way)
We do not condone mansplaining here. Or if you’re a woman, we don’t condone patronizing explanations. What we do recommend is clearing up some of the common myths and misconceptions about prenups. There are tons out there. We’ve heard it all! From “prenups are not enforceable” to “you only need a prenup if you’re rich,” there is truly a fable out there for everyone.
Let’s bust some of those most commonly known myths about prenups:
- Getting a prenup means you automatically have a bad relationship. Not necessarily true. You get car insurance, right? Does that mean you’re a bad driver? Probably not. The same thing goes for prenups. There’s about a 50/50 chance of divorce; a prenup is kind of like “marriage insurance,” as we like to call it.
- Prenups are always one-sided. Not always true. Legally, if prenups are too one-sided, they can actually be thrown out. They do not need to be 50/50 by any means, but they should be reasonably fair.
- Prenups are expensive. Eh, we beg to differ. With HelloPrenup, you can get a prenup for just $599 per couple. Getting a prenup with an attorney is a different story.
- Prenups only protect the wealthy. False. There are tons of clauses that benefit the less wealthy spouse, such as lump sum payments, primary residence, separate property phase-in clauses, and alimony.
- Prenups always get thrown out in court. Not always. Prenups can get thrown out occasionally but are also upheld all the time. Attorneys would not make prenups if they were simply ripped up in court every time.
Seek the help of a neutral third party
There are two types of neutral third parties that may come into play here: a lawyer and/or a therapist. Lawyers can help you understand the law and give you suggestions on what you should do, based on their experience. Let’s say your spouse is unsure of whether or not they should get a prenup. They might ask a lawyer, “why should I get a prenup?” And a lawyer will tell them the pros and cons for their specific legal situation. For example, maybe your spouse wants to be a stay-at-home parent. A lawyer can explain all of the ways in which the prenup can benefit them, such as including a lump sum clause, alimony, and allowing them to remain in the primary residence after the divorce.
As for a therapist, they may come in handy if there are emotional issues at play. If your spouse is blocked on the prenup topic because of an emotional or relationship issue, then a lawyer may not be the way to go. A therapist can help you two work through getting a prenup and how you can make sure your relationship stays intact. For example, let’s say your spouse is incredibly offended by your prenup suggestion and thinks it’s a bad omen for the relationship. A therapist may be able to help your partner work through this negative thought pattern. Why are they feeling this way? What caused this unrealistic belief? How can you support your partner in a way to soften this feeling?
Remember that a prenup is not set in stone. If, at any point in the future, either party feels that the prenup no longer reflects their goals or needs, it can be renegotiated or dissolved.
Discussing a prenup with your future spouse may not be the most romantic topic, but it’s an important conversation to have. By approaching the topic with open and honest communication and seeking the help of a neutral third party, you can ensure that both of your interests are protected and that you are on the same page about your financial future together.
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]