If you’re reading this and you’re a doctor, or your partner is a doctor, then congrats on accomplishing one of the most difficult academic programs that exist in the world! You should definitely be proud of yourself (or your partner) for the progress you’ve made to become a doctor. We know it’s a lot of work. Next on the to-do list: get a prenup. We’re here to tell you about why doctors should consider getting prenups. We think everyone should consider getting a prenup, but there are some special reasons why doctors should get one. We dig into this topic below.
Reasons why a doctor should get a prenup
Whether you’re a doctor, teacher, police officer, or astronaut, you should probably consider getting a prenup. However, there are some reasons why a doctor should specifically get a prenup based on their profession.
Protection of assets
Doctors spend many years in school and training to become physicians, and they often accumulate significant assets along the way. These assets can include investments, retirement accounts, real estate, and even medical practices. In the event of a divorce, a prenup can ensure that these assets are protected and divided according to their wishes.
Medical school debt
Now, most of you that are doctors are probably carrying some hefty medical school debt with you. The ones that don’t have medical school loans–congrats, you broke the Matrix! Jokes aside, debt can be a very concerning topic of conversation between you and your partner if one of you or both of you are doctors.
Prenups can determine whose responsibility it is to pay off medical loans in the event of a divorce. It’s important to first understand how allocating debt works in a prenup. Generally, there are two types of debt: premarital debt (debt accrued before the marriage) and marital debt (debt accrued during the marriage). You may have some debt that was accrued prior to the marriage and during the marriage. You will need to decide how these two types of debt are handled in a divorce. Let’s look at an example for guidance.
Let’s say John took out $100,000 in medical school loans before getting married. Then, the remaining $400,000 was taken out during his marriage to Jen. John’s premarital debt is $100,000, and his marital debt is $400,000. In his prenup, he wants to make sure that his premarital debt is kept separate (Jen shouldn’t have to pay that), but the marital debt should be shared (Jen benefitted from his doctor’s salary, after all). This can be determined with a prenup (as long as Jen also agrees to the terms).
Avoidance of legal disputes
Divorces can often turn ugly, with financial disputes adding to the stress and emotional strain. A prenup can help avoid these disputes by clearly outlining how assets will be divided and what each party is entitled to. Why is this important for a doctor? Well, with all of those student loans to pay off, medical malpractice insurance, and a high cost of living city, the last thing you may want is to add legal fees to your list of bills.
Prenups can help ensure that your divorce destiny is predetermined before divorce is even on the brain. The prenup conversation and negotiations are typically made at a time when both partners are happy and excited to be together. At the time of divorce, they may not be so happy. Determining the big issues like property division, alimony, and debt allocation prior to the emotional turmoil of a divorce can lead to fewer legal battles and, ultimately, fewer fees.
Protection of professional reputation
For doctors, their professional reputation is nearly just as important as their financial assets. A prenup can include provisions that protect a doctor’s professional reputation by preventing a spouse from making negative statements or sharing confidential information with others. Yes, that’s right, you can include a confidentiality clause and a social media image clause to your prenup.
A confidentiality clause restricts your future spouse from sharing private information, such as info about your personal beliefs, finances, work history, etc.
A social media image clause restricts your future spouse from posting or sharing damaging online content about you. You may even include a penalty clause that forces your spouse to pay $X if they post anything humiliating or disrespectful about you.
Both of these clauses typically run indefinitely, so they may also be in place after the divorce is long over. So, your spouse should not be able to go gossiping and damage your reputation years after the marriage ends.
Misconceptions about prenups that may apply to doctors
There are many misconceptions out there about prenups, but there are some myths that apply even more so in a doctor’s situation. See below.
Myth #1: You only have debt right now; you don’t need a prenup
POV: You’re a resident with only staggering amounts of debt to your name. You see no light at the end of the tunnel, especially with that fellowship heading your way. As a resident, you’re raking in about $50,000 a year. You feel there’s no real need to get a prenup–what’s there to protect anyways? This is not necessarily true! You have EVERYTHING to protect, even though you don’t have it…yet.
Prenups can make sure that your future assets are protected (and you will make money as a doctor in the future, we promise). As a future doctor, you’re likely to be making $200,000 or more per year. If you are highly specialized, such as an orthopedic surgeon, you could be making a salary somewhere upwards of $500,000! (We know you already know this, but it’s important to remind you!). You can make sure that future income is protected with a prenup, along with any other assets you purchase during the marriage (a.k.a., the future).
Without a prenup, much of that high income you will earn would be split up with your future ex-spouse. Any assets you purchase during the marriage or inherit will also be up for grabs.
Myth #2: The state law will protect my assets; I don’t need a prenup
Many people, including doctors, wrongly assume that state law will protect your assets. In some cases, it might, but not in all cases. What people fail to understand is that judges have a lot of discretion, and much of a divorce outcome is based on your specific circumstances. For example, in some states, you could have an asset that was purchased before the marriage and usually considered separate property… but it ends up becoming marital property (i.e., up for grabs) for any number of reasons.
Let’s use a fake scenario to demonstrate. You purchase a piece of real estate years before getting married. You think you understand the law and think that this is protected because it was purchased before the marriage. Well, turns out your spouse made a few contributions and renovations to the real estate property during the marriage, and the court now declares they are owed a portion of it. Bam–you potentially just lost a 30% value in the property, even though everything you’ve read online says state law should protect your property owned before the marriage!
This is just one way that the many legal exceptions may come into play that may turn originally separate property into marital/community property. You went to med school for how many years? Well, lawyers did the same, and that’s why they exist–because the law is dense and confusing!! Leave it up to the professionals to make sure you are protected.
Myth #3: Prenup means I’m greedy and/or my relationship is doomed
There are already so many myths about doctors out there–good and bad. Some doctors may think getting a prenup means it will add to the “bad” reputation of doctors–that they are greedy. Why? Because prenups tend to get a bad rep and can sometimes make people distrust or feel that the other person is greedy.
Try shifting your mindset to this: marriages usually end 50% of the time. If you had a 50% chance of getting into a car accident, would you get car insurance?
Does having car insurance mean you’re doomed to get into car accidents? Of course not! Same goes for a prenup. In fact, prenups can actually strengthen relationships by facilitating communication before marriage about hard-hitting topics like money, children, jobs, divorce, and much more.
Myth #4: Prenups take forever to get
Some doctors may be turned off by the idea of getting a prenup simply because they have to spend their off days in an attorney’s office. And we totally get why no one would want to do that (the lighting is always awful, what’s up with that?!).
Good news for you: with HelloPrenup’s platform, you can have a prenup in under two hours. HelloPrenup was crafted by divorce attorneys and made to ensure you get the prenup you want without leaving the comfort of your home.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re a doctor, firefighter, janitor, or CEO, a prenup is something everyone should consider! Even if you have no assets now and only debt (like many of the doctors getting married out there)! For doctors, you can make sure your medical school loans, future assets, and even reputation are handled in the way you want them to be handled. And don’t be fooled by the silly misconceptions about prenups out there. Prenups are just one tiny step towards your happy ending!
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]