We all know a successful marriage doesn’t come by accident. It takes a lot of hard work, commitment, and love to make it great. One key thing you can do to get your marriage started off right is to get a prenup. It can be the first step in a successful marriage. A prenup can help with communication, equalizing power, aligning goals, expectations, and roles, and even giving you some peace of mind. What could be better than that?!
What is a successful marriage?
In our humble opinion, a successful marriage is one where both parties care for each other, commit to each other, and are honest with each other. And, of course, a successful marriage is a marriage that stays intact. There are many factors that can contribute to a successful marriage, namely, a prenuptial agreement. Here are some other keys that contribute to a successful marriage:
- Emotional support
Overall, a successful marriage is one that you are happy in, regardless of what any article says. Successful marriages usually do not happen by accident, and there is a level of effort that must be put in. One of the ways you can start your marriage off on the right foot is by getting the prenup talk started three to six months before the wedding day!
How can a prenup facilitate a successful marriage?
First and foremost, a prenup can create an open line of communication by requiring both parties to really open up about their finances and life goals. During the prenup process, you both have to disclose all of your finances and how you want to handle them. And by “disclose all of your finances,” we mean ALL of them. There’s no skimping on certain assets or debts because you’re embarrassed or want to keep it secret. This is an all-cards-on-the-table kind of situation, which is why a prenup is an excellent communication tool.
Second, a prenup can equalize the power in the relationship dynamic. For example, if one party is a stay-at-home parent and dependent on the other for financial support, this can erode open communication. It may make the person with less money feel like they have less of a voice in the marriage. This can be especially true for women, with the gender wealth and gender pay gap at play.
Third, a prenup can align goals, expectations, and roles in a marriage. When creating a prenup, both parties must agree to terms. This means that each party’s life and financial goals, expectations of each other, and marital roles must be agreed upon. For example, will one party be a stay-at-home parent while the other works full-time to support the family? How will you spend, save, and invest money? These are the kind of questions you and your partner need to discuss.
Fourth, peace of mind in the form of financial protection. A prenup can protect your assets, protect you from debt, protect your pets, and you can even protect your confidentiality (and much, much more!). Not only does a prenup protect you, but it can also expedite the divorce process, saving you attorney fees along the way. A prenup puts your mind at ease in so many ways!
Clauses to include for a successful marriage
A good prenup is an agreement that is customized to your specific needs, and both parties feel like it’s a win-win. A good prenup = a start to a successful marriage. There are a plethora of clauses you can add to a prenup agreement to make it tailored to your marriage.
How you two will handle different types of property is a very important clause to include in a prenup. For instance, how will you treat property that you had prior to the marriage and property you accumulate during the marriage? How will you treat things like retirement funds and real estate? Is the apartment you bought separate property, meaning it’s yours and yours alone?
Let’s say you bought an apartment years before you met “the one.” You start making payments but don’t quite pay them off in full before getting married. During the marriage, you continue paying down the mortgage with your income. Depending on your state’s law, paying down the mortgage with funds earned during the marriage may allow your ex-spouse an interest in the apartment in a divorce. Yikes! The good news? In a prenup, you can specify whether or not this apartment would remain separate property or if you’d be okay with your partner potentially owning a portion of the property.
Earned income during the marriage
What is earned income, you ask? It’s a lot of things. It’s salary, bonuses, wages, royalties, residuals, commissions, and much, much more. Basically, earned income can include any money you acquire as a result of your labor, effort, creativity, advice, management or other participation with third parties. You can outline in a prenup how to handle income earned during a marriage–that is, will it be considered separate property, or are you okay with potentially sharing it with your ex? For example, let’s say you have a rental property that you purchased before the marriage that produces a side income for you. Do you want that income from the rental property to be separate property, or are you okay with potentially letting your future ex take a cut?
Ahh, the lovely “d” word: debt. Many Americans have it, and most don’t want it, but we all have to deal with it! Does your special someone have a staggering amount of student loans? Or maybe they have a shopping addiction which is usually followed by a hefty credit card bill. A prenup can help protect you from debt taken out by your spouse both before marriage and during the marriage. It’s great to include this in your prenup.
Alimony (i.e., spousal support or maintenance)
Alimony, sometimes called spousal support or maintenance (depending on what state you’re in), is the financial support paid from one ex-spouse to the other during or after a divorce. Without a prenup, state law and some judicial discretion will dictate the amount and length of alimony that is to be awarded to a party. In a prenup, you can choose to eliminate the possibility of alimony altogether or limit it in some way. You may even waive alimony if the marriage lasts for a certain period of time. For example, you might say that you will both waive alimony if your marriage is under two years long at the time of the divorce.
Lump sum payment
A lump sum payment when one spouse pays the other a one-time payment. It can be a way to neutralize any imbalances between you and your boo in a few ways. First, if one partner has significantly more wealth than the other, it may help with the relationship dynamic to have a lump sum clause. It can help the person with less wealth feel like an equal. Second, if one spouse is staying home to raise the children and forgoing their career, a lump sum clause may help equalize that earning potential if a divorce were to occur.
How to handle spending
Will you two share a bank account or have separate accounts? If you have a joint account, you will want to acknowledge how much will be contributed and when and how the funds will be used. Why? Because the bank account will likely be treated as shared property in the event of a divorce and split up accordingly.
Inheritances and gifts
If your parents or grandparents plan on handing down a significant amount of property (an inheritance), or if they happen to shower you with money while they’re still alive (a gift), then you may want to consider including a clause about inheritances and gifts. It is a common misconception that inheritances and gifts are not subject to division in a divorce. And that’s not necessarily true! A prenup can help outline that your inheritances and gifts are yours only.
Confidentiality / Social Media Image
This may seem weird, but it’ll make sense in a minute. In the day and age of social media and having a world of information at our fingertips every second of the day, having a confidentiality clause may bring some peace of mind to those folks who don’t like their image or information out there for the world to see or hear.
Let’s say you two purchased little Max together right after getting engaged. You both love him dearly and could never imagine a life without him. Well, start imagining because if you don’t decide in a prenup now, a court will decide for you, and you may not like the result. You can include who will get ownership of the pet in your prenup, and in some states, you can even include a pet visitation schedule.
A sunset clause basically puts the kibosh on a prenup after a certain period of time. An expiration date, if you will. Usually, couples will decide, “after X number of years of marriage, what’s mine is yours and vice versa; we won’t need this prenup anymore.”
How HelloPrenup can help you have a successful marriage
HelloPrenup can assist you in getting a prenup while sitting on the sofa and sipping wine. Yes, you read that right. HelloPrenup’s interactive platform helps you create a highly customized prenup that makes sense for you and your honey in just an hour and a half! After you are done with your prenup, you can cheers with your boo to the start of a successful marriage.
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]