Almost everyone has heard the term “prenuptial agreement” before, but who is completely sure what a prenup is? Well, a prenup can be an integral part of the marriage process for many couples. What terms and precedent does a prenup set for the marriage? Can it be revoked at any point in time? Here are a few basics that you should know about prenuptial agreements. With this information, we are hopeful that you will be able to determine if you need a prenup and how to get one.
What Exactly Is a Prenuptial Agreement?
Called a “prenup” for short or in some cases, an “antenuptial agreement,” it is a written contract that two people have created before their marriage takes place. Keyword: Before. You cannot get a prenup after you get married! Agreements made during the marriage are usually called “postmarital” or “postnuptial” agreements. A prenup details all of the property and debts that each party has and lists out the property rights for each after the wedding takes place, and during the course of the marriage.
Who Should Get A Prenuptial Agreement?
Although prenuptial agreements are always in the news for celebrities or wealthy socialites, many couples can (and should!) have a prenuptial agreement. The reason a prenup is so useful, is that it sets about terms that can protect assets that either party has, or protect each party from debts. There are many reasons that you may consider a prenup:
- Protection from debt: a prenuptial agreement can protect spouses from the other’s obligations. For example, without a prenuptial agreement, if the spouses divorce, a court may deem that debt must be split evenly, or partially, even when one party was not individually responsible for that debt. With a prenup in place, you are helping to avoid this uncertain scenario.
- Outline financial arrangements: You and your fiance may want to know, prior to marriage, what will happen to your personal and marital property during the marriage, if the marriage ends, or if one of the spouses dies. Having these terms set out beforehand can make for a smoother transition should the marriage not work out.
- Avoid arguments if the worst case scenario… divorce: With a prenuptial agreement, the rules of dividing the property are already laid out and you do not need to rely on state law or a court’s decision… because you already agreed!
Prenups are a great choice for those couples who don’t want the state to determine what happens to property at the end of the marriage, and are an excellent way to protect those interests in a written form that everyone can agree with.
What Happens If You Don’t Have a Prenuptial Agreement
Suppose you don’t have a prenuptial agreement in place. In that case, the laws of the state where you reside define the property rights for each spouse upon divorce. This rule applies to marital property and property acquired before the marriage.
When a marriage takes place, it is deemed a contract between the spouses, granting each spouse automatic property rights over the other’s property, with variations ranging from state to state. If these laws aren’t ones you agree with, then it would be an excellent time to consider negotiating a prenup between you and your future spouse. You can decide between yourselves how to handle the property (current and future), income, inheritance, etc.
You should start discussing prenup terms with your future spouse ASAP. Why? Because financial transparency is important, and this is your person- you should be able to talk to them about this stuff. Get the conversation going sooner, so you can get back to planning your wedding!
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