Planning to get married, and haven’t sorted your prenup yet–or even decided whether you’re getting one? Stop scrolling. Focus–you’re going to want to read this article before you say ‘I do.’ We’ve got the tips and tricks and everything in between for you to get that prenup signed, sealed, and delivered. Keep reading to learn more!
First…Do You Need a Prenup?
The first step in the process is of course determining whether a prenup makes sense for your situation. We can’t tell you what specifically makes sense in your situation, but we can equip you with the info. While prenups were previously thought of as only for the ultra-wealthy, nowadays more couples are signing them. Here are some common reasons people are getting prenups these days:
- You want to choose what will be considered separate vs. marital property
- You want to make sure debt stays separate
- You and your partner have vastly different incomes and you want to make sure both parties are taken care of in the event of a divorce
- You have children from a previous relationship (a prenup can help make sure money stays in the family and doesn’t get split up in a divorce)
- You want to establish a sense of clarity around both partners’ financial roles and expectations in marriage
- You don’t want to receive the ‘default prenup’ (the laws of your state)
- And more
According to a private HelloPrenup study, the majority of HelloPrenup users got a prenup to define property as either marital or separate. This means clarifying who gets what in the event of divorce or death. That bank account you own? That piece of land you might inherit? It’s all fair game, and many people want to make sure it’s safe in the right hands in any scenario life throws their way.
Discuss With Your Partner
Once you decide a prenup is a good idea, you’ll need to broach the subject with your fiancé. This can be an uncomfortable conversation, so approach it sensitively.
If they seem hesitant or upset, reassure your partner that asking for a prenup doesn’t mean you lack trust or have doubts about the marriage. Rather, explain that you view a prenup as a pragmatic move to establish roles and responsibilities as well as protect both of your interests. Explain that although you don’t plan on getting divorced, a prenup is akin to car insurance: despite the fact that you are a good driver and don’t plan on having any major accidents, you still get car insurance just in case. Make it clear a prenup would bring you peace of mind and clarity on marital finances, and that you are not acting out of fear or mistrust.
If your partner is resistant, give them time and space to process the idea before revisiting the discussion. It’s also important to compromise. This can help make them more comfortable with the prospect of getting a prenup, and keep reassuring them that your commitment to the relationship remains steadfast. In other words, you want to do this to strengthen your connection, not diminish it.
Disclose All Assets and Liabilities
For a prenup to fully protect your interests, you must provide full financial disclosure to your partner and their lawyer. While prenup laws vary state to state, every single state requires some level of financial disclosure. This means sharing financial information, which includes:
- All accounts (think: checking accounts, brokerage accounts, etc.)
- All retirement accounts (think: 401k, Roth IRA, etc.)
- Real estate
- Business value and equity
- Future, potential inheritances
- And more
Omitting key financial information can result in a prenup being thrown out if it’s ever challenged. That is why it is so important to be 100% transparent in regards to your finances during the prenup process to ensure your agreement holds up.
Deadline for a Prenup
In some states, prenups are only valid if executed within a certain time frame. This is why it is important to check with your state laws or a local lawyer to understand what the deadline is for you to get a prenup. For example, in California, there is a rule known as the seven day rule, which requires seven calendar days between the final agreement and the signatures. This allows couples time to digest what they are signing and get a lawyer if they want or need one.
Discuss Lifestyle Expectations
In addition to finances, your prenup can also set expectations for your married lifestyle. This part of the agreement is covered in what are known as ‘lifestyle clauses’. In most states, lifestyle clauses are not enforceable. However, they encourage personal accountability.
Some common points that can be covered are:
- Where you will live
- How household expenses will be shared
- How childcare responsibilities will be divided if you have kids
- What happens in case of illness or disability
- Rules for extramarital affairs (will one spouse be liable for financial compensation in the event of infidelity? Is this grounds for divorce?)
Although you’ve likely discussed some if not all of these areas before, formally revisiting big-picture priorities and values and putting them down on paper helps align your visions before you walk down the aisle.
Signing and Notarizing the Prenup
Once the agreement is finalized, meaning all the terms are agreed upon, you are ready to sign it. While notarization isn’t required in every state, it’s a good idea to get it notarized anyway. Notarization is simply a way to verify that it was actually you who signed the agreement and you were of sound mind. You can take your prenup to an in-person notary or even choose to do it remotely (in select states).
Do I Need a Witness?
Certain states mandate the use of one or more witnesses in the signing of your prenuptial agreement. If you find yourself in one of these states, it’s essential to have your prenup signed in the presence of your designated witness(es). This quite literally means putting pen to paper while your witness(es) watch. This protocol may serve as a means to authenticate identity, confirm mental competence, and ensure the absence of any questionable activities, such as coercion. Depending on the state, you may have the flexibility to use your attorney or a notary as a witness, while other states may stipulate the involvement of a different individual as your witness.
Do I Need to File the Prenup?
No–generally, a prenup does not need to be “filed” anywhere to be considered valid and enforceable. It is simply a private contract between two individuals. We recommend signing three original copies. One for you, one for your partner, and one in a joint location. Don’t forget to keep a digital copy, as well. Make sure to store your original copy along with your other important personal and legal documents somewhere safe.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) About Signing a Prenup
Q: What are the benefits of signing a prenup?
A: The benefits are multifaceted, ranging from clarity in financial responsibilities to protection against unforeseen legal challenges. For more, see this blog article expanding on the top ten benefits of a prenup.
Q: How much does it cost to sign a prenup?
A: Costs vary and can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the complexity. Going through HelloPrenup will only set you back $599, whereas going the typical route with attorneys will cost you at least a few thousand bucks.
Q: Can a prenup be challenged in court?
A: Yes, but successfully challenging a properly drafted and signed prenup is difficult and rare, as it takes a lot of time and money to get to that point.
Q: Does a prenup protect future assets?
A: YES! A prenup can ensure that your future assets, income, and debt are all clearly defined.
Q: Are prenups only for wealthy individuals?
A: No way! Those days are long gone. Prenups can be beneficial for anyone getting married, and they’re relevant for a range of financial concerns and plans. The lesser-earning spouse may include clauses in their prenups that benefit them in the event of a divorce.
Q: What happens if we decide not to get married?
A: Prenups are only effective upon marriage. If you don’t get married, your prenup is not valid.
Check out HelloPrenup
Once you and your partner are on the same page, check out HelloPrenup’s easy-to-use software for creating a prenup. It’s simple, just sign up, invite your fiancé, and get started. You and your partner will both fill in your details separately. You both individually go through a questionnaire that asks you things like “do you want to waive alimony” and “do you want to include a pet clause.” Once you are all done, you two then negotiate any differences in your answers together before finalizing the agreement. In select states you can even add on discounted attorney services, such as a Q&A or full prenup review with a real attorney in your state.
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]