Do I Need a Prenuptial Agreement?
Quite often, soon-to-be-married individuals casually address lawyer friends at social events and cocktail parties, wondering this very question. They are in love; they almost don’t want to think about it, but the nagging question makes them wonder — and with good reason.
The answer — it depends.
Here are five circumstances where a prenuptial agreement may be right for you:
- If you already have an estate plan in place, a prenuptial agreement can ensure the bequests you made before the marriage will be exactly the same bequests at your death and there will be no challenge to your will. In Pennsylvania, simply by virtue of marriage, spouses have an automatic right to request one-third of their spouse’s separate assets if that spouse made no provision for them under their will. Of course, they also receive the entire amount of any jointly held property in addition to the one-third of the separately held property of the deceased.
- If you have already been through a divorce and do not care to go through the emotional uncertainty and the expense again, a prenuptial agreement can outline the rights and obligations you will have upon divorce, making the finalization of any divorce simpler and expedient.
- If you already own a business interest you spent time and effort developing before your intended came along, a prenuptial agreement can protect the increase in value of the business from the date of marriage to the date of separation from being included in the marital estate. Measuring the increase in value of your business, to divide upon divorce, can be an overwhelming task. The standard documents required by experts to perform this task involve information from five years prior to the marriage and five years prior to separation. That means all of the general ledgers, depreciation schedules, profit and loss statements and much more need to be gathered.
- If you have adult children from a prior marriage, a prenuptial agreement can ease their fear that your spouse is “marrying you for your money” and thereby take away the stigma of a stepparent who comes to rob the children of their inheritance. It can certainly make for a more full-hearted marriage celebration for all.
- If either of the parties tends to spend far more than the other, you can describe in the prenuptial agreement how you want debts incurred during the marriage to be treated for equitable distribution purposes. By stating only jointly titled debts will be marital, you save yourself from having these debts considered in the overall asset division which usually translates into more money for the spouse who spent more (as the debts are in his or her name and reduce the assets in their possession). Typically, such debts are part of the overall marital estate — even if they are incurred without the other spouse’s awareness.
So, the answer to the question “Do I need a prenup?” depends on many circumstances, most importantly financial. Start the conversation with your soon-to-be-spouse and you’ll most likely be pleasantly surprised. For many couples, the prenuptial process actually incites healthy discussions about the financial expectations during the marriage.
If you are in early stages of planning a marriage, discuss prenuptial agreement options with the family law attorneys at Pollock Begg Komar Glasser & Vertz LLC. Each situation is different and we will help you design an agreement to adequately protect your future.