Prenuptial agreements (or prenups) are becoming a progressively more popular way for couples to protect their personal assets before getting married.
With divorce rates in the states topping out at a colossal 67% for second marriages, the risk factor for divorce is high.
While the idea of discussing your potential divorce amid the happy preparations of your big day may seem to put a downer on things, it is vital to take the necessary steps to plan for possible scenarios and protect your financial interests and assets.
A prenuptial agreement can help you and your future spouse decide how you support yourselves financially during the marriage and what will happen to your property should the marriage end in divorce.
Here we will walk you through the process of how to obtain a prenuptial agreement: where to start, your available options, and the best ways to increase the likelihood of having a valid agreement.
Who Should Get a Prenup?
With all the fuss and excitement around making your wedding plans, it is also integral that you budget enough time and money to have your prenup done and dusted before the wedding. DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE! 🙂
The first step to getting a prenup is to make sure having one is the right approach given your personal circumstances. No one can tell you whether an agreement is the right choice for you and your future spouse, and it is certainly a very personal decision.
The thought is that prenuptial agreements are more advantageous in certain (most) instances than not having one in place at all. The argument can be made, and in fact, we are the ones making it, that a prenup is a good thing for every couple. If one or more of the following apply to you then you may benefit from speaking to your partner about collaborating on a prenup:
- You or your partner have children from a previous relationship or marriage
- You or your partner have been married before
- You or your partner own a business
- You or your partner own property or real estate
- One of you has significantly more wealth or more debt than the other
- One of you is intending to not work after marriage, or upon having children
- You want to be clear about how property, assets and debt will be managed during your marriage or upon a divorce
When Should You Start Thinking About a Prenup?
It is never too early to start thinking about or planning a prenup. Where possible, you should begin the process a minimum of 3-6 months before your wedding date. Why does it take that long? Well, it may not take that long, but trust us, you don’t want to be doing this at the last minute.
Leaving enough time will enable you and your partner to have space and time to make more thoughtfully considered and organized decisions about what to include in your agreement and to make revisions where necessary.
You should aim to have the final draft of your prenup finished one month before your big day. This is not a legal requirement, we are just suggesting a period of time that would likely mean zero stress before your big day. This will permit you both enough time to independently consult a lawyer, if you wish, before signing the agreement. While this is not a legal requirement in all states, if a future judge determines that the prenup was rushed or the parties did not have time to consult with independent legal counsel then they could render it unenforceable.
So, what we are saying it that depending on your method of choice, you will also need to allocate time to have the prenup drafted and reviewed.
Your Options for Obtaining a Prenup
We are just guestimating here, but there are currently three good ways to obtain a prenup and we will be looking in detail at each process.
To create a prenuptial agreement you can:
- Write your own… this is going to be really hard if you are not a lawyer with deep knowledge of prenups, and if you were, you probably would not be reading this (just sayin’)
- Hire a lawyer
- Use HelloPrenup: a unique, affordable and fast approach to creating a prenup without leaving your couch
Writing Your Own Prenuptial Agreement
If you are planning to create a simple prenup and you have a limited amount of assets, then you may think writing your own prenup sounds appealing. “I’ll just jot down a few notes on a word doc, and we will sign it,” you say.
Not so fast. Before you start drafting a legal document, it is vital that you carry out detailed research into the laws in your state, as well as ya know, basic contract law. Don’t have time to squeeze the equivalent of law school into your schedule before your wedding? No worries, that’s what HelloPrenup is for.
But, just a little lesson on prenups, for now. For your prenuptial contract to be valid you must:
Disclose all current assets, debt, as well as future inheritance of gifts
In most states, for your prenuptial agreement to be valid both parties must disclose their full financial situation before signing the contract. This includes all income, assets, debt, investments, real estate, property and other financial liabilities.
So, you must gather your most recent financial records, details of any stocks, bonds, annuity funds, bank statements, pension funds or retirement plans, pay stubs, credit card debt, mortgage information, and loans.
Now, some states allow parties to waive this financial disclosure. But, don’t depend on this. State laws vary, and it is safest to disclose everything.
Discuss your future financial goals with your fiancé
A premarital contract also needs to take into account your future life together and potential changes to your financial situation. Do one of you plan to stop working if you have kids? Maybe? Make sure you think about any plans and how those plans may impact the need for an increase in income or salary, or how assets could be divided differently if one party decides to stay home.
Discuss provisions for your children when applicable
If there are children from a previous marriage or relationship, then this could add complexity to your situation. If there is property or assets that one party wants to pass on to their children, then these provisions need to be included in the contract.
Discuss and decide how your property and finances will be managed during the marriage
Property (and money) can be separately owned unless specifically listed as joint property. You will therefore may opt to detail what you would like to classify as separate property and joint property within your agreement. The contract must detail how these assets will play into your marriage in terms of who is paying what.
Decide how assets and property will be managed in the event of a divorce
When thinking about distributing your assets in the unfortunate event of a divorce, you will want to consider:
- How your real property (including your marital home) will be split
- How any businesses will be considered
- How assets such as cash, stocks, and bonds will be divided if you split in the future
- Whether one person will receive money in lieu of property and how that will be determined
- Whether spousal support will be applicable
Top tips for working through your prenuptial agreement include:
- Make sure you understand the language included in the agreement
It is important to avoid ambiguous or vague language. A common failing of prenuptial agreements is the inclusion of unclear or hazy provisions and clauses. Each asset included on the contract should be partnered by a specific description (for example the make, model, color, registration plate of a vehicle) and you should make sure you understand what each provision means.
- Check, check and check again
After finishing your draft, you need to proofread and check the document several times for errors or inaccuracies which could render your contract inaccurate.
- Have a lawyer review your draft
Even if you do decide to draft your own prenup, it is still advisable for each party to consider having independent counsel to review the document. Whether legal counsel is a state law requirement or not, having an expert opinion can increase the probability of mistakes being spotted and enhance the validity of your contract, therefore boosting the likelihood of your prenup being enforceable if disputed.
How much does it cost to write your own prenup?
You can write your own prenup for free, or for a nominal fee if you download a template from the internet. However, we recommend that you seek independent counsel for both parties to ensure the contract is what you had intended. Costs for hiring an attorney per hour can vary from $250 to $1,000. This ballpark figure does not take into account potential retainer fees, or additional time for negotiation.
How long will it take to write my own prenup?
This will depend entirely on you and your partner. When drawing up your own contract, especially if you are unfamiliar with legal jargon or how the law works, then it will involve an extensive amount of research, background reading, and legwork. And, because law is complex, you still won’t get it right. So, the moral of this story, is don’t try to write your own prenup.
Hiring a Lawyer to Draft Your Prenuptial Agreement
If you have a complex set of financial circumstances or lots of assets that need protecting, then hiring a lawyer to draft your prenup may be a solid way to ensure your contract holds up and precisely reflects your needs.
A competent lawyer will be able to take care of the whole process for you, which will include documenting your assets, having full knowledge of executing state laws, customizing your contract accordingly, and offering advice and guidance where needed.
Top tips for hiring a lawyer to prepare your prenup include:
- Talk to your future spouse first
It is essential that you have clear and frank discussions with your partner first, before hiring an attorney. You will need to speak in detail with your lawyer about your financial intentions, but these specifics don’t need to be ironed out with your other half ahead of time. What does need to be ironed out, is making sure you are both on the same page for getting a prenup.
- Pick an attorney you feel comfortable with
Your lawyer will need to have information relating to all your finances, debts, and property and you may find this level of exposure uncomfortable or weird. Therefore, we recommend hiring an attorney you feel happy sharing with and speaking to about your fears and wishes for this agreement.
- Be prepared for additional costs
While it is not required in all states, you and your spouse may need your own separate, independent attorneys to review the final version of the prenuptial agreement. A judge will be more likely to enforce your contract if you and your partner are equally represented.
How much can you expect to pay when hiring an attorney to draw up your prenup?
The overall cost of a prenuptial agreement will depend mainly on your assets, and the complexity of the agreement you require. In some instances, lawyers will charge by the hour or will work on a flat fee depending on your needs and your chosen firm of experts.
Typically, prenuptial agreements drafted through an attorney can cost in the region of $1,200 to $2,400. Per person. However, this could be more depending on whether you and your spouse have difficult issues to iron out or a number of revisions that need to be made. Couples who are negotiating very intricate matters could anticipate spending upwards of $7,500
Unfortunately, there isn’t a set cost for prenups if you prefer the idea of hiring a lawyer from the getgo. If you choose this option then you must speak to your attorney and about the cost you are comfortable with, and discuss and ensure there are no hidden fees, unexpected costs, or other extras that you may not have planned for.
There are a number of cost factors that you should take into account which include:
- Where you live (large urban areas often charge more for these types of services)
- The complexity of the agreement
- Your assets
- The need for any prolonged negotiations or discussions about complex issues
- The reputation and experience of the lawyer drafting the contract
How long will it take for an attorney to draw up your prenup?
If you plan to hire an attorney to negotiate and draft your prenup in its entirety, then you should allow around 3-6 months for the whole process to take place. This is from the point of first contact until you sign the finalized agreement.
Using HelloPrenup to draft your agreement
HelloPrenup is an innovative and efficient online platform enabling couples to create a prenuptial agreement quickly and cost efficiently.
Founded by a divorce attorney and a technologist using four fundamental mainstays, this proprietary platform was created to encourage couples to become more fully involved in assuming control of their own financial futures.
The four fundamental foundations of HelloPrenup are:
- Affordable: HelloPrenup costs a flat rate fee of $599 per couple
- Fast: This streamlined process enables many couples to start and complete the process of securing a prenup in just a few hours
- Comprehensive: HelloPrenup does all the legwork for you, providing you information on individual states and offering an extensive list of customized clauses, all at no extra cost.
- Collaborative: HelloPrenup’s software enables you and your partner to negotiate the terms of your contract, encouraging both parties to be equally involved in the entire process.
This method of drafting a prenuptial agreement offers the security of a legal contract but without the hefty fees, unnecessary complex processes, stress of retaining a competent attorney, and the back and forth of conversations between you, your counsel, and your future spouse.
HelloPrenup works simply by you and your fiancé completing an initial questionnaire, detailing income, assets, and property information before moving on to the tailored ‘Discussion and Issue Resolution’ step.
Your final contract can then be downloaded, after payment has been received. You can also choose to hire an attorney to review the agreement by simply passing them the editable word document.
How much does it cost to draw up a prenup through HelloPrenup?
HelloPrenup costs a small percentage of what you can expect to pay to have your document drafted by a divorce attorney in your state. There are no hidden fees or expensive retainer costs, like you could otherwise be stuck with. HelloPrenup costs a flat rate fee of $599, to be paid prior to downloading the final agreement.
How long will it take to draw up a prenup through HelloPrenup?
The HelloPrenup platform was designed specially to be user-friendly and thorough. As a result, most couples are able to complete their registration, negotiation and download their contract in just a few hours. Meaning that you can start and receive your contract on the same day!
Only you and your partner can decide what is best for your personal circumstances. Getting a prenuptial agreement can be a big decision for you both but also involve a substantial amount of expense and time depending on the method you choose.
If you want to talk through your options or find out more about our platform, then we are here to help. Contact us now at [email protected].
Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected].