In the months before your big day its not uncommon for you to be swept away by the promise of a happily ever after. You want to be thinking about cake and flowers not contracts, lace-trimming and limousines not lawyers, veils and vows not…law.
But the unfortunate reality is that divorce rates continue to sky-rocket, so it makes good sense for you and your fiancé to do what you can to protect your best financial interests should the unthinkable happen.
When should you start thinking about a prenup?
It’s never too soon to start thinking about whether you and your future spouse would benefit from a prenuptial agreement. There is no obligation for any couple to have one, but they can add an increased layer of security to your marriage and your financial future.
You should start the discussions about a prenuptial agreement as soon as possible after you get engaged. Doing so will enable you and your loved one the time and space to have any lengthy and detailed conversations you need and then make considered and thoughtful decisions about your futures.
Related: Check out our prenup encyclopedia here!
Depending on the method you use to create your prenup, it can be relatively simple and straightforward, but the discussions you have with your fiancé beforehand could take substantially longer.
While each state has its own by-laws governing the principles of a premarital contract, three unwavering requirements are that:
- the contract must be entered into voluntarily by both parties
- the prenup must be signed prior to marriage, and
- there must be a full financial disclosure by both parties. Some states allow a waiver of financial disclosure, but this is very specific to the laws of those states.
Therefore, if you have never broached this topic with your partner before, then you should allow a minimum of 2-3 weeks for those preliminary discussions. This will permit you time to talk through any problems or worries and become comfortable with your decision.
When should you initiate getting a prenup?
Depending on your chosen method of getting a prenuptial agreement, you will need to allocate an appropriate amount of time to have the contract drafted, reviewed, and edited where necessary. Negotiation is an important aspect of your agreement, so don’t wait until the last minute!
If you plan to hire an attorney to negotiate and draft your prenup, then allow for around 3-6 months for the entire process to be concluded. This is typically from your initial point of contact until you sign the completed agreement.
If you decide to use HelloPrenup’s proprietary platform, then the length of time it will take from start to finish depends entirely on you and your future spouse. The entire process using HelloPrenup should take a few hours.
You should aim to have the final draft of your prenup finished around one month before your set wedding date. This will allow you both time to consult with an independent lawyer, if you want legal advice or representation, before any signatures have dried. While hiring the services of a lawyer to check the contract and advise you isn’t mandatory or a legal requirement in all states, it can further enhance the enforceability of your prenup. For example, if a judge determines that the contract was rushed or that either party was coerced into the agreement or did not have the opportunity to obtain independent legal counsel, then they could render the prenup void or unenforceable.
When should you sign your prenup?
A prenup should always be signed before the marriage takes place, PERIOD! You cannot sign your prenup after you are married. Give yourself plenty of time, and try to sign your prenup approximately between 1 and 3 months before your nuptials.
There is no concrete timeline stipulating when your prenup should be signed but the understanding is that it should be at a ‘reasonable’ point before the wedding, usually with reasonable allowing enough time to obtain legal advice or representation if desires. The issue with this is what is considered ‘reasonable’ in one state may not apply in another, and the terms for validity do vary depending on the state you are in.
For example, couples must allow 7 days between being presented with the contract and signing it in California. This rule has been enacted to allow both parties adequate time to seek out legal representation if they require it. In some states you could sign a prenup on the day before the wedding, however in other states this would not be acceptable.
Some couples fail to start the sometimes-lengthy process of a prenup until immediately before their big day. This means that they sign the contract in the imminent days leading up to the wedding – on occasion even a few hours beforehand! In some states this can lead to legal repercussions, meaning that the prenup could be disputed, contested, and annulled.
If you want more specific information about where to find state laws on prenuptial agreements then further details can be found here, or you can reach out to ask any other questions about how our platform works.
What is the #1 thing you should do AFTER you sign your prenup? Check out our video below:
All In Good Time
So, why is the timing of signing your prenup of such importance?
If you choose to sign your prenup too close to the marriage then the courts could question if the agreement was rushed, or if one party was pressured or forced into signing the contract. Now, some states have case law that says that the timing of when an agreement was signed does not matter. But, that is not the case in all states.
Similarly, signing the agreement too far in advance can be problematic as well. If you were to sign your agreement a year in advance for example, your financial schedule would not be accurate.
Problems with being too organized or signing your prenup an excessive amount of time in advance can include:
- A change in circumstances or a change in finances
If a change in financial or lifestyle circumstances took place between the couple signing the contract and the wedding taking place, then this could render the agreement inaccurate and therefore raise issues.
No Prenup = No Problem?
If you chose not to get a prenuptial agreement or you simply didn’t know about them, then all is not lost. You may still be able to get a postnup. But beware, postnups are not enforceable in all states.
A postnuptial agreement could provide some level of retrospective financial protection against divorce; however these forms of contract are not as easily or widely accepted in all states like prenups are.
Therefore, where possible, you should always opt for a prenup instead.
As with most things in life, timing is important. This is especially true when you decide to get a prenuptial agreement. Discussions, revisions, drafts, research, and state laws mean that some methods of drawing up a prenuptial agreement can take several months.
While in many states there are no concrete rules on what a reasonable timeframe for obtaining and signing a prenup are, we always recommend avoiding last-minute agreements when possible. Signing off late in the game and leaving those vital decisions to the last minute can leave you vulnerable and open to potential dispute both in your relationship, right before your wedding (!!!) or if the agreement is ever enforced in the future.
If you want to find out more about your options, and the services that HelloPrenup offers, then please 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]