If you are in the process of planning your wedding and your partner requests a prenuptial agreement prior to the wedding date, you may be initially insulted at the lack of romance behind the formality and say, “Let's call the whole thing off.” But there are many reasons why a couple should consider a prenup, and protecting one's wealth is not the only reason.
The Myths and Misconceptions Surrounding Prenups
While most of us view prenuptial agreements as paperwork used to protect the assets of wealthier partners, there are other reasons to draft and sign a prenuptial agreement.
- Prenuptial agreements are not just for the wealthy. In most cases, prenups are used to determine what each partner's assets are coming into the marriage, which can speed up the division of assets in the event of a divorce.
- Prenups can protect children from a previous marriage. If one of the partners has been previously married and has children from the marriage, a prenuptial agreement will help ensure that the children from that marriage, as well as any children from the new marriage, are protected financially. If there is not a prenup in place, a surviving spouse could claim most or all the other spouse's property, leaving the children from the first marriage with very little.
- Prenups can prevent divorce proceedings from dragging on. A prenuptial agreement can also help prevent long-term arguments over finances in the event of a divorce. Virtually everyone remembers when Paul McCartney married Heather Mills, without a prenup, despite everyone he knew urging him to rethink the decision. At the time, the former Beatle was worth $800 million and Mills was determined to walk away with as much of that hard-earned cash as possible. In the end, after a contentious and very public divorce, Mills was awarded $35 million, much less than she originally asked for in court.
- Debt protection. If one partner comes into the marriage with a lot of debt, a prenuptial agreement can prevent the other partner from taking on that debt, especially in the event of a divorce.
While many partners believe that a single lawyer will protect both sets of interests equally, it is important that both partners retain their own attorney to protect themselves and their assets. Separate attorneys are best for both parties, despite taking vows until death do us part.
What happens if you skip the prenup?
While things didn't turn out quite as badly as they might have for Sir Paul McCartney, going without a prenup can be risky business because it puts the state in charge of who gets what in the event of a divorce or death. That may mean that the surviving spouse can keep assets meant for children from a previous marriage, or it could mean that property – or debt, for that matter – that belonged to one partner before the marriage is shared after the marriage is dissolved.
If you are in need of more information regarding a prenuptial agreement, our experienced attorneys can help. Please call us today at 704-861-0700.