Most people don’t have prenuptial agreements, and many don’t need them. But many others could benefit greatly from having a prenuptial agreement. They aren’t just for the wealthy, although if you are wealthy, you really should strongly consider having a prenuptial agreement.
Why don’t more people have prenuptial agreements? There is a combination of factors. The most commonly expressed reason is that people fear that getting a prenup is like planning to divorce before they are even married. It is true that if you have a prenuptial agreement and end up divorcing, the divorce process, including division of assets, will be a lot easier. But getting a prenup doesn’t cause divorce any more than carrying an umbrella causes it to rain. It simply means that you are prepared.
A related issue is that people find the topic hard to introduce to the person they plan to marry. (“Darling, I’ll love you until the end of time...but would you mind signing this document in case the end of time comes earlier than we planned?”) The good news is that if you are getting a prenup for the right reasons, it can actually benefit you both. And we’ll give you the tools you need to start the conversation.
Who Needs a Prenup?
As mentioned above, people with significant assets can benefit from a prenuptial agreement. A prenup can make clear just what assets will be subject to division in case of a divorce, and address issues like alimony as well. It is a lot easier to discuss these topics when they are purely hypothetical than in the heat of a contested divorce. If one spouse is a business owner, or owns business interests, a prenup is a way to ensure that those interests will remain in his or her hands in the event of divorce.
A prenup can also be used to specify which assets will and won’t pass to the surviving spouse on the death of one of the other spouse. Why is this important? Wouldn’t a will accomplish the same thing? Maybe. But wills can be revoked, rewritten, or contested. In a situation where one or both spouses have children from another marriage, a prenuptial agreement can preserve the inheritance of those children. Knowing the new spouse has signed a prenup can ease tensions between the children of the other spouse’s first marriage and the new step-parent.
Without a prenup, a scenario like this can unfold: Bob has three children with his wife, Ann. After Ann’s death, Bob marries Josephine, who also has grown children from a prior marriage. Bob and Josephine mean to write wills, but never get around to it. Bob has a heart attack on the golf course and dies. Under Florida law, Josephine is entitled to half of his estate. If Josephine dies a month after Bob, her children inherit her share of Bob’s estate, as well as her other assets. This is probably not what Bob would have intended. If Bob wants to be sure his children receive certain assets, including family heirlooms, a prenuptial agreement in which Josephine signs off on that arrangement (and in which her kids are protected should she die first) is the best option.
Who else needs a prenup? Certainly, any couple in which there is a large disparity in income, assets, or debt. But really, any couple that wants to make sure they are on the same page with regard to finances can benefit. And that is the irony of prenuptial agreements: by agreeing in advance on how certain financial situations will be handled, you prevent disputes from arising later. That prenuptial agreement you were worried could lead to divorce might actually help prevent one.
How to Talk to Your Partner About a Prenup
All the benefits of a prenup won’t matter a bit if you can’t bring yourself to talk to your future spouse about getting one. Here are some tips that can help you get started.
Before even saying the word “prenup,” talk to your partner about your goals. “I want to start our marriage on a strong financial footing, and I know disagreements about money can cause problems in a marriage. We should talk now to make sure we’re on the same page, and resolve any issues if we’re not.”
Then ask questions. If you’re planning to have kids, is one parent planning to stay home, potentially sacrificing their career for the sake of the family? How should that spouse’s contribution and sacrifice be recognized financially? Do either of you come into the marriage with debt? What should the other spouse’s responsibility be with regard to that debt?
If these questions are thorny, don’t be discouraged. It’s better to wrestle with them before you get married, than when you’re married and they’re no longer hypothetical. Remind your future spouse that the hard work of discussing finances is worth it to lay a solid foundation for your marriage. And once you reach agreement on financial issues, then you can propose putting your agreement into writing. When that time comes, contact Miami family law attorney Antonio Jimenez to guide you through the process of creating a prenup with knowledge and sensitivity.