So much of getting married is about romance, a-rockin' celebration, and the lifelong commitment that you and your partner are making. But, at the end of the day, it’s important to remember that marriage, while being romantic, is also very much a legal matter. Just as important as making sure that your wedding decor colors match, it’s important to make sure that you and your partner have the same end goals in mind before getting married—and that might be where the concept of a prenuptial agreement, or a prenup, comes into play.
Financial Advisor Theresa Morrison, CFP explains prenups in a clean, simple metaphor: “Marriage is a legal contract, much like a company’s founding incorporation. A prenup is a legal contract, and continuing the analogy, is much like the operating marital agreement. Prenup protects assets that each partner brings to the union, as well as clarity on the disposition of assets and distribution of labor and income.”
So, you may be wondering: What is the benefit of getting a prenup? Is it a good idea to get one, or is it a thing just for celebrities? We spoke to a marriage attorney, a financial advisor, and a relationship therapist to answer all of your most burning questions. Below, we’ll cover prenup benefits and drawbacks, so that you can see if it’s right for you.
“Prenups help you negotiate more favorable terms than whatever law may be in place at the time of legal separation or divorce. This nuptial agreement can also protect you and your partner from lengthy and expensive litigation if there ever comes a time,” explains Maria M. Barlow, an Illinois-based attorney. You want to have a prenup, to make these decisions about your future between two people who like each other, not when things are at their worst. Protecting your possessions and avoiding future conflict will take a ton of stress and tension out of the divorce process if it happens. Starting at a place of mutual understanding and agreement is great for both you, your partner and your marriage. You want to start your marriage perfectly in sync, because otherwise if a challenge arises later, it can be far more difficult to resolve. It’s expecting the unexpected, a built-in “break glass in case of emergency” box.
It’s very important that your attorney knows your goals and desires in your nuptial agreement, and to discuss any possible conflicts that might arise in the future.
According to Barlow, these are some points to keep in mind when discussing a prenuptial agreement with your attorney:
Morrison adds a few other points:
People often get the wrong idea about prenups, mostly because they’re not very romantic (in theory, that’s an opinion) and they’re seemingly exclusive to the rich and/or famous. That’s highly untrue—assets can be whatever you have, including a possible inheritance, children from a previous relationship, or a family business. All of those things should be covered and protected in a prenup. “Prenups are for any couple that decides that it is in the best interest of their relationship to have the marital agreement. Also, prenups do not insinuate lack of trust, but [rather] a desire to lack confusion and conflict,” says Dr. Markesha Miller.
A prenup can protect you and your family, and guide responsibilities during marriage, regardless of the number in your bank account. It’s about so much more than just money and your spouse; the prenup process helps you clarify you and your partner’s perspectives on major changes, such as moving or giving up a career to take care of children. If your partner has an issue with trust, Morrison put it simply: “Actually, the power of a prenup is the increased trust that is built by going through the process.”
Every person interviewed for this piece gave this question a resounding yes—if that works for your values and beliefs. Either way, discussing important future life questions and getting financial advice with a neutral third party—whether it’s a financial planner, marriage attorney, or family therapist is always an excellent idea. “Prenups are a great idea and highly recommended. If nothing else, it gets the couple thinking and talking about how they see marriage,” Barlow shared.
“This is a subjective decision that has to be made based on individual desires, values, and beliefs. If you feel that the presenting marriage is not even—based upon income, debt, and possessions—and this is concerning to you, then a prenup may be an option to present on the table before signing the marriage license,” Dr. Miller says. Also, if you have other children from a previous relationship to consider or a family business to protect, then a prenup may be of consideration.
Morrison gives an enthusiastic yes: “A prenup is like writing your marriage insurance, without monthly premiums. It can protect you during a worst-case scenario, as well as help mitigate future arguments and marital conflicts.” She adds, “If your marriage does get to the end of its road, a prenup is like a cul-de-sac. You can turn around faster, more easily, and with less emotional baggage.”