Should you include a prenup in your wedding plans?

Your wedding celebrates the new life that you and your intended will begin. You aspire to prosper together, perhaps have children or blend existing families, and stay together forever. How does a prenuptial agreement or premarital agreement fit into those plans? If you suggest having one, aren’t you telling your soon-to-be spouse that you do not think the marriage will last? In short, no.

What it does say is that you look at the world in a practical manner and would rather prepare for the worst and hope for the best. It means that you do not want to fight if even if you do divorce. Furthermore, it forces the two of you to discuss something that many people find uncomfortable to talk about — money.

Did you know that money remains one of the top reasons why couples divorce in the first place? Having this uncomfortable conversation before you even say “I do” could actually increase your chances of staying together.

Who needs a prenuptial agreement?

Other than avoiding a contentious divorce if your marriage should end, the following encompass some of the most popular reasons for a prenup:

  • One of you was married before: If either of you were previously married and divorced, there may be assets, e.g. retirement account or pensions, that are dedicated or partially assigned to your former spouse.
  • One of you has children: If either of you come to the marriage with children, their potential inheritances or other needs can be specifically identified and protected with a prenup.
  • One of you has significant assets or debts: If either of you has significant assets, outlining those assets in a premarital agreement can allow the spouse with assets to easily identify and keep those separate assets separate throughout the marriage and at divorce. On the other hand, if one party is entering the marriage with significant debt, you may want to identify that debt so you do not end up paying for it.
  • One of you owns a business: If either of you owns a business or an interest in a business, this is one of the most difficult assets to value and untangle in a divorce if there is not a premarital agreement. If they arise, disagreements concerning the valuation of businesses can be incredibly costly. Often following a divorce, the business owner will feel as if the other spouse gained an unfair windfall or the non-owning spouse will feel as if he/she did not receive a fair division of this asset.
  • Your engagement was short: Jumping into a marriage without knowing the accumulated assets and debts of your soon-to-be spouse and understanding how each of you views financial issues may be asking for trouble.

You can pledge to spend the rest of your life together without giving up all of your rights to do it.

Virginia law requires that you and your partner enter into the prenup voluntarily and understand its content and that other conditions are met. You do not want to have a prenup that is determined to be invalid by the court at your divorce. If you decide to negotiate and execute a prenuptial agreement or premarital agreement, you should consult with an attorney to ensure that the document truly protects your rights.