Pre-Nuptial Agreements (& Arguments)

You’ve seen it in the movies, you hear it on the news and celebrity marriages wouldn’t exist without it – the all too familiar scene: One party or the other shows up weeks, days or minutes before the wedding ceremony  with a pre-nuptial agreement that needs a signature before the wedding will take place. WOW. That’s really harsh, right?   Yes, and no. In my humble opinion, marital contracts can be very important but not when handled this way.

The Pre-Nuptial agreement has been around for a very long time.  It is a contract  entered into prior to marriage , civil union or any other agreement prior to the main agreement by the people intending to marry or contract with each other to divide or protect personal assets in case of divorce or separation.

There are many times when  a pre-nup is needed. When there are vast differences in economics, large family fortunes at stake and when there are two people coming into a marriage with extreme differences in earning or earning potential. As much as protecting the party who enters into the marriage with the vast sums of money, the pre-nup is also designed to provide for the other spouse. I could give you a million examples but, the bottom line is that if executed properly, the pre-nup is signed, put away and never thought of again. In some rare (odd) cases, the pre-nup actually places physical requirements on one party as a means of keeping the agreement valid. Here is one example of what I consider to be supremely weird: The pre-nup of a very wealthy man to a less fortunate woman requires that she stay a certain weight, remain drug-free and not have any plastic surgery. For every year they are married and she fulfills her obligations, she receives $100,000. This is a pre-nup that never ends. There is constant weigh-ins, drug- tests and inspections ( I guess).  This is not  what a pre-nup is designed to do but, not the worst example I have ever heard, it is also very true.

The pre-nuptial agreement should be something that is openly discussed and negotiated prior to requesting a signature. It shouldn’t just show up one day without any warning.  Understanding the intentions of your fiance and his or her financial situation will help to ease the sting of being asked to sign something that you feel is a slap in the face.

Put your emotions aside for a moment and remember that most  pre-nuptial agreements are merely estate planning tools that answer difficult questions before the situation arises. There is always another way and you should do all you can to save your marriage. If some marital issues become too difficult to handle, you can always try couples counseling retreats and consult from the best attorneys such as Pensacola divorce attorney. Also remember that death is an unfortunate and eventual part of life and pre-nuptial agreements can protect your spouse in case of your death as well as divorce.

Speak openly about your wants, needs and feelings. Consider hiring a mediator to help you work out the details together instead of each of you having separate legal representation.

While you are at it, provide for funeral expenses, health care, and all of those other ugly things we don’t like to think about. If there are children involved, plan for their future as well. Tuition, living expenses while in college and rent can all be worked out in one simple document.

If your future spouse walks in the door one day and hands you a document to sign, this is a sign that there is a bigger problem. On the other hand, if there is a conversation that begins with “We need to plan for the future” then you are in a position of being able to set the terms and help plan for your future together. This is also the perfect time to talk about  life insurance and determine the beneficiaries and executors of your estates.

It is important to remember that even though pre-nuptial agreements are recognized in all 5o states, there are cases when the entire document is thrown out of court. DO NOT buy a do-it-yourself Pre-Nup kit online and think for a moment this is the way to handle delicate and complicated financial affairs. Contact an  attorney who specialize in estate planning and sit down (together) to determine what is in the best interest for both of you.

If you say  that money doesn’t matter, you’re wrong. Money really matters if you don’t have enough or way too much. The wealthy need to prtoect their assets and the less fortunate need to constantly assure their wealthier counterparts they are not in it for the money. Consider the Duchess of Alba. In order to marry the man of her dreams (at the age of 85) she wis so insistent that her much younger husband was not marrying for her money that she recently gave away the entire fortune worth nearly $5 bilion.  Intersting, indeed.

Last but not least – don’t forget the debt. Make sure you address what to do in case of mutual property or debt. If your spouse dies and leaves more debt than assets, are you still covered? Is it your debt? If your marriage ends in divorce is he or she still required to pay the same amount if the income to debt ratio  changes?

I know, you are supposed to be marrying for love and money shouldn’t matter  so having this conversation seems a bit distasteful. It’s not. It’s practical and if your ‘intended’ runs at the very mention of a pre-nup, perhaps this is a sign of a much bigger problem.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Pre-Wedding Arguments – How to diffuse hot-button topics

I have never heard anyone say that if they could go back in time they would spend more time arguing about things that don’t really matter.  When it come to weddings, so much time goes into the planning that many couples are left exhausted after the event is over. Exhausted, broke and sometimes bitter.  It seems like the moment you set the date, time has no meaning except in terms of wedding planning. How soon do I need to book a reception site? How soon do we need to order invitations? WHOA!

Before you begin to discuss even one detail of your fairytale wedding, look at the topics that cause the most stress among engaged couples.

Cost – The number one argument starter. In order to avoid this argument, first define who is paying for what. Sit down with whomever is paying for anything and have a candid conversation about costs. If your parents are involved, politely ask them if they will be involved financially as well. Its is not tacky to discuss finances with immediate family. It is tacky to expect them to pay for a lavish event they cannot afford. Have a frank discussion, leaving no questions unanswered. This is the time you should define your budget clearly and leave some wiggle room. There will be some things that come up, some hidden costs that you may not have anticipated and you will want to be able to handle this with ease. Agree on every detail of the budget. If your gown budget is $2,500, make it clear to your bridal consultant and don’t try on $4,000 gowns. It may seem that having less monetary constraints would mean less arguing – not true. For each budget there is a limit. Higher budgets mean higher demands and higher expectations. Stay within your budget and you will have one less reason to disagree with your loved ones.

Prenup –  This sounds like a bad thing but it is actually a good thing. If you or your fiancee are coming into the marriage with vast amounts of financial resources, it is always a good idea to protect yourself. A good prenuptial agreement guarantees both spouses the benefits entitled to each of them as a result of their marriage. This is no reason to argue. Make sure that it is equitable, sign and forget about it.  Unfortunately love does not always last forever. Yes, you can be both romantic and realistic.

Planning – Who is handling what?  One major complaint of brides-to-be is that most men are under-involved in the planning process. Rather than argue about this, ask once and move on. In order to avoid overburdening yourself with every task and errand, delegate responsibilities as much as you can. You  mother, maid of honor, his mother, whoever you completely trust. Allow them the luxury of helping you and allow yourself the luxury of letting go of total control. 

Guest List – The guest list keeps getting longer. What to do? If you have clearly defined your budget you will know how many guests you are able to invite.  If one of your parent’s is determined to add extra guests and are not sharing the wedding expense they should be sent to their room with no video games for a week. Seriously, talk to them immediately about what you can and can not afford. One way to limit extra guests is to make sure the invitations are addressed properly. For single, unattached  friends it should be addressed to them only and it will signal they should not invite a guest. For couples with children, only list the names of the adults. Do not feel bad when guests call and ask if they can bring someone. Explain to them that the budget does not allow for this and end the conversation.
If they write it on the reply card, call them and explain over the phone why they can’t bring an extra person and on their next birthday send them a book of manners.

Seating Chart. Yes, people argue about the seating chart and I know this first-hand. In some cases, it is clearly a bad idea to mix family and friends too closely. Although there are as many cases where mixing it up entirely works great.You always want your loved ones to be comfortable with their dinner partners. If you are respectful of that, everyone will have an enjoyable event, including you.  I would strongly advise against placing two vocal activists of any same issue next to one another at a particular table. 

Each one of these topics is a reason to argue with family, friends or future spouse. It is also an opportunity to rise above the situation and agree to disagree. Do not let strong wills and opinions interfere with your happiness. Find a solution, usually somewhere in the middle, where everyone can be happy.

The best gift you can give yourself is to stay organized, focused and not let your temper get the best of you. Take a deep breath and remember that ultimately your attitude will set the tone for the entire affair, start to finish.

Words to live by:
 “Compromise is what makes nations great and marriages happy”

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago