What is a Prenuptial Agreement and Should You Sign One Before Getting Married?

A prenuptial agreement, sometimes referred to as an antenuptial agreement, is a written contract that sets the ground rules concerning property acquired prior to marriage.

Although the terms are negotiable, generally speaking the contract provides that neither party has any obligation to provide for each other at death.  Also, the contract typically says that if there should be a divorce, neither party would ask for alimony nor make any claim toward the other party’s property acquired prior to marriage.

This all sounds great, right?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, a contract of this sort gives important protection of premarital assets and can help avoid some complications that go with divorce.  However, in order to obtain this protection there are some costs and responsibilities to consider:

  1. First, before anyone signs the agreement, each party would need to make a full disclosure of current assets, liabilities, and sources of income.  This means putting together a written financial statement and providing copies of your most recent income tax returns – the most recent three years is recommended. This is not hard, but can be time consuming and an extra burden on the parties.
  1. Second, each party would need to have their own attorney to independently advise them.  That means bills from two attorneys and adds to the overall costs of getting married.
  1. Third, consider that all contracts are negotiable and negotiation of terms is a normal part of the process.  Sometimes it appears at first blush that both parties are on the same page, but after they speak with their attorneys sometimes it is not so black and white.  When there is little negotiation, usually it’s fairly painless.  But in cases with extensive negotiations, things can get tense at home between the two parties which may negatively affect the relationship.
  1. Finally, if the parties desire a prenuptial agreement, it is recommended to be completed ASAP.  When the prenuptial agreement is knocked out well in advance of the marriage, the process is much less stressful than if parties wait until the last minute.

So with that, it is up to you and your future spouse to decide whether having a prenuptial agreement is the right choice for your relationship.

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