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