Pre-Marriage Advice: Do You Need a Prenup?
When most of us think of prenups, we probably think of wealthy tycoons who are marrying partners much younger and less financially stable than they are. In the real world, however, there are several reasons why a prenup (aka "premarital agreement") might be right for you and your future spouse. You should contact a family law attorney for advice on the reasons for having or not having a prenup.
Make Your Own Rules
In most states, couples who plan to marry have two options: (1) marry without a premarital agreement and accept all of the legal consequences of our state's family, estate, and trust laws; or (2) enter a premarital agreement before marriage that will enable the couple to choose whether and how certain family, estate, and trust laws will apply to them. Essentially, if you get married without a premarital agreement, you are allowing the state to write your agreement for you -- the legislature's pronouncements on family law, estate law, and trust law (and their amendment and repeal over time) will guide the court in the event you divorce. You might think of this akin to dying without a will -- someone else will make the rules about what happens to your family and property.
A valid, carefully crafted premarital agreement, on the other hand, allows you and your betrothed to choose the approach that will work best for you if you ever separate. As a couple, you know your unique circumstances better than anyone else, and you may benefit from rejecting the one-size-fits-all approach of the state statutes. Instead, you have an opportunity to determine your own path in the event that things go south. This is why it's important to get advice from a family lawyer before getting married.
Address "Business" Issues Before Walking Down the Aisle
There's no point in denying it: negotiating a premarital agreement is not the most romantic part of wedding planning. While the most important, inspiring aspects of a wedding are about love and commitment, the unavoidable truth is that marriage is also a business decision. That's true whether you enter a premarital agreement or not. In the event that you and your future spouse have uncontested divorce, your property will be divided as if you two had a business partnership. Business people make contracts to govern the division of money and property all the time, so it's not absurd to think that you should too.
Although it can be difficult to buckle down and discuss finances when you're in the haze of wedding planning, before the wedding is actually an ideal time to work through these issues.
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