What goes together better than the holidays and prenups? Nothing, if you ask us! Maybe you’re a holiday fanatic, or maybe you have been dreading the holidays for months; either way, if you’re planning on getting married soon, you should probably have the prenup talk with your parents. Especially if there are inheritances or family wealth that you would like to protect in your prenup. Prenups can be a touchy subject, so discussing this kind of thing with family members can be hard. The good news? There are ways to make things easier on yourself—and on them. So if you’re wondering how best to approach this sensitive topic (or avoiding doing so because of the stress), here are some tips:
Get all your ducks in a row
Before you jump right into talking business with your fam, make sure you know exactly what you want. This conversation may get tricky, so you’ll want to come prepared. Both you and your soon-to-be spouse should be ready with the basics of your finances, the state laws, what you want to go into the prenup, and potential inheritances.
First, it’s important to know what assets each person owns and how much debt they have before getting married. There’s a part of the prenup process called financial disclosure, which is crucial to creating a legally sound prenup. Financial disclosure requires you both to put it all out on the table, flaws and all. This means that credit card bill you racked up last summer in Greece, those student loans, that nice chunk of change in the Fidelity account. All of it! And if you do think you can get away with leaving something out, you’re sorely mistaken, and your prenup may very well get tossed in the trash by the judge if you are less than 100% forthcoming.
Second, know the law. Or as we like to call it, “the default prenup.” That’s right–if you don’t have a prenup in tow, the default state law will provide you with one. The “default prenup” is simply the divorce law in your state that would govern the division of your assets, debts, and spousal support if you did not have a prenup. Every state has a different way of handling how to split up assets, debt, and grant alimony. If you have a prenup, you can override the “default prenup” / state law. Knowing what happens without a prenup will help prepare you for tough conversations; it shows you have your ducks in a row!
In addition to the default state laws that will happen without a prenup, you may want to brush up on the law around prenups in your state. We’ve got plenty of information on our website for you to dig in. Some people have quite different opinions on prenups, and it will help you to know the facts about prenups before getting bombarded with opinions. For example, some people falsely believe prenups don’t “stand” in court. That’s not true. They are very much enforceable if you do them the right way. There are a few ways a prenup can be invalidated, but it’s not as easy as some people think. By getting a prenup, you are entering into a private contract with your soon-to-be spouse. As long as you avoid a few pitfalls, like not forcing your spouse into signing this in the first place, contracting illegal activity, or not following state law for a valid prenup, you should be okay! NBD.
Third, what do you want to do in your prenup? Do you mostly want to share all of your assets but keep a few certain things separate? Maybe you want to follow the old “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours” rule. Whatever it may be, you should know what you want in your prenup before going into this conversation, so it doesn’t throw you off track when Mom asks.
Fourth and finally, inheritances and family wealth. If you are lucky enough to be someone who will be receiving an inheritance, whether money or physical property, then this is a crucial topic to consider beforehand. This is the main reason you want to loop your parents in, anyway! What will the inheritance look like, and how will you be protecting such inheritance (if at all). If you are protecting it in your prenup, you will need to include it on your financial schedule and, therefore, will need to ask your parents (or whoever the benefactor is) for a value. It can be approximate, but you should be as accurate as possible. Maybe the whole thing is that you don’t want to protect the inheritance because you want to share it with your beau. Whatever it may be, make sure you think about the inheritance and family wealth topic beforehand.
Bring it up at the right time and right place
It’s important to plan when and where you will bring up this sensitive topic. Remember, it’s the holidays, so everyone is a little on edge, especially when your Great Uncle Chester won’t stop talking politics all night. Maybe Mom has been cooking her fabulous food all day and night for everyone. Maybe Dad is plain sick of his brother Chester who’s been snoring up a storm on the couch all week. Whatever the situation may be, make sure to plan out the right time and place to have this conversation. With Uncle Chester around, things might not go to plan. So it’s probably best to have a one-on-one conversation with your ‘rents.
Holidays aside, make sure you are in the right state of mind. Don’t start this conversation when you are stressed, tired, angry, or even drunk from all that hot chocolate and Baileys! Having any of these feelings when having an important conversation with your parents can cloud your judgment and make it impossible to have an open and balanced discussion where both parties feel heard by one another.
Know what you’re going to say
If you’re feeling anxious about this conversation, it may help to know what you’re going to say. If it’s an especially tense conversation for you, it may help to write down some talking points on your phone’s notes app. This may help guide the conversation with your parents and make sure you don’t forget anything important. Having an idea of what you want to say can also make it easier for you when the questions start flying around during dinner or after-dinner drinks. Those hot toddy’s really hit hard sometimes, so it’s best to be prepared for anything!
By knowing the facts about your state’s law on prenups and what happens without a prenup, including how long they take (hint: not long with HelloPrenup) or how much they cost, will give you confidence when discussing them with your loved ones.
You may want to consider how they will react. You know your parents pretty well at this point, so try to prepare for their reaction and how you will respond. Some parents may even have their own strong opinions on prenups, whether good or bad, so prepare for that. Next, think about what your parents may want out of your prenup. It’s likely that they will be concerned about your future inheritance and your happiness. At the end of the day, the prenup is about you and your fiancé, but if you’re reading this article, you probably want to respect your parents’ wishes for your prenup in some way.
Talk to your parents
First and foremost: getting a prenup at least three to six months before the wedding is crucial for a valid prenup. That means you need to get going on this conversation with mom and pop! The holidays can be a great time to talk to them about your prenup. Everyone is (usually) happy, eating good food, drinking good drinks, and surrounded by family. Now’s the time to let your parents know! Remember that they have been there for you all your life, so they will naturally want their opinions heard and respected.
Heck, you may even want to ask their advice! Maybe they have a prenup themselves. After all, they have much more life experience than you, and they usually have your best interests in their mind. Asking for advice can be a good way to open up the conversation, even if you don’t end up taking said advice.
Now, go ahead, go talk to them!
Talking about prenups can be stressful, but not as stressful as a divorce!
Remember, at the end of the day, this may feel somewhat stressful, but this is a small drop in the bucket compared to what a divorce without a prenup will feel like. Without a prenup, the government gives you a “default prenup,” which is simply the state rules for dividing up assets and deciding on alimony. If you say no to a prenup, you’re saying yes to a judge’s decision on your life. And it may not always work in your favor.
The bottom line
Getting engaged? Check. Planning the venue? Check. Next up: starting the conversation around prenups. The holidays are a time for family, friends, and relaxation. That’s why it’s a great time to have the prenup conversation. And if you’re in the middle of planning your wedding, then talking about prenups is definitely one of those things you need to get done ASAP.
A prenup agreement is a good idea if you want to protect your financial future and ensure your parents’ inheritance (if that’s what you want to do). Prenups don’t have to be scary, expensive, and time-consuming. HelloPrenup offers an interactive online platform that walks you through creating your own prenup step-by-step. There’s even a negotiation phase where you can invite your partner, and you two can go back and forth if there’s something you aren’t aligned on.
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]