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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Is a prenup right for you?

prenuptial agreementBy Jason B. Martin, Esquire

The decision to get a prenuptial agreement, also known as a "prenup", can present a challenge.  The issue of prenuptial agreements is sensitive, and many people are unsure as to whether such an agreement would be appropriate in their specific circumstances.  Whether you feel a prenup is right for you will depend largely on the personal, financial, and legal details of your life.  Once you understand the basics of a prenup and what it can accomplish, you should examine your specific circumstances to determine whether a prenup is indeed right for you. 

What is a prenup? 

A prenuptial agreement, also known as a premarital contract, is a legal contract that states a couple's wishes before marrying and is often used to specify how a married couple would divide their assets in the event of a divorce.  A prenup provides peace of mind for those who are entering a marriage with children from a previous relationship or with substantial premarital assets.  Having a prenuptial agreement in place that has been drafted by an experienced lawyer is a strategic and logical step for many couples.

How to determine whether you should get a prenuptial agreement 

For most people, the most important issue to consider is whether a prenup will create a tone of bad faith or distrust with your soon-to-be husband or wife.  You certainly don't want to insult your significant other, but some people consider signing a prenup to symbolize a lack of confidence in the marriage.  

Divorce lawyers and other legal professionals are familiar with how essential discussions about finances are for every couple about to marry.  Having this kind of conversation can actually improve your communication with your partner and ensure that you're both on the same page.  While it's impossible to predict the future, many people find that a premarital agreement actually helps to increase their security during the marriage.  Additionally, as divorce lawyers know, it also helps ease the transition in the event that the marriage ends.  

Who should get a prenup?

Some people believe that a prenup is only for the rich and famous, but these agreements are not just for millionaires anymore.  More and more middle class Americans are making the decision to draw up a premarital contract.  According to a 2011 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 73% of divorce lawyers had witnessed an increase in prenups over a five-year period.  Additionally, 52% of divorce lawyers surveyed had seen an increase in women initiating a request for a prenup, and 36% of divorce lawyers surveyed had noticed an increase in pensions and retirement benefits being included within prenuptial agreements.

One reason for this increase is that people are getting married later in life compared to previous generations.  The average age of first marriage in the U.S. today is about 27 for women and 29 for men.  Since people are getting married later in life, they have had a chance to accumulate more assets and therefore have more to protect.   

What are the advantages of having a prenuptial agreement?

Having a well-drafted prenuptial agreement drafted by an experienced lawyer is a prudent and practical step for many people.  Enforceable prenups  have many advantages:
  • Peace of mind for people entering a marriage with children from a previous relationship by protecting the children's inheritance rights
  • Protection of real estate or other personal property that one party owns before entering the marriage
  • Shielding retirement accounts or pensions
  • Control over any future wealth, including the possibility of owning a successful business

How to create an enforceable prenuptial agreement

A good prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract that is enforceable in court and will hold up against a good divorce lawyer if such a need arises.  You should have a prenuptial agreement prepared by an experienced lawyer because these agreements have significant legal consequences.  An experienced attorney can prepare an agreement for you that is fair and legally effective.  

No one likes to think about divorce - especially when you're recently engaged - but the indisputable fact is that many marriages end this way.  It is far easier to negotiate the terms of a fair settlement agreement when your relationship is strong and communication between you and your partner is good.  Trying to negotiate these terms after the marriage has ended and emotions have taken over can be tremendously difficult and expensive.

Whether or not to get a prenup is a highly personal decision.  A prenuptial agreement can be used to accomplish many purposes and contains many protective provisions that will serve to benefit both parties in the event of a divorce.  An experienced attorney can even include a "sunset provision" in your prenup, which will render the agreement void after a specified number of years of marriage.

About the author: Jason B. Martin, Esquire is a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer and founder of The Martin Law Firm, located in Montgomery County, PA.  The experienced divorce lawyers at The Martin Law Firm provide exceptional legal representation and personal service for family law matters, including prenuptial agreements, child custody, and divorce. The Martin Law Firm serves clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania.  To schedule a family law consultation with an experienced Pennsylvania divorce lawyer, contact The Martin Law Firm at 215-646-3980 or visit www.jbmartinlaw.com.  

* Image license: MarkBoyToy; CC BY 2.0