Contrary to common belief, prenuptial agreements, also known as prenups, are not exclusively for wealthy couples. Whether you’re living paycheck to paycheck or you possess significant assets, creating a legally-binding contract to safeguard your property can be an excellent financial planning tool. In this article, we will explore the concept of prenuptial agreements and discuss whether it’s advisable to hire an attorney when considering one.
What Is a Prenuptial Agreement?
A prenuptial agreement is a legally-binding contract that outlines how a couple’s assets will be divided in the event of a divorce. It can also cover other financial matters, such as alimony and debt responsibility. The process usually involves both parties disclosing their assets and debts. If you wish to keep your property separate, you can specify that each individual asset remains the original owner’s property. Prenuptial agreements are particularly valuable if you have a business or property acquired before the marriage.
What Should Our Agreement Include?
When drafting a prenuptial agreement, it is important to tailor it to your specific circumstances. There is no one-size-fits-all contract, so you should consider your financial and social situation before finalizing the terms. Aside from the standard division of assets and debts after a divorce, you can include provisions on various subjects. For example, if you have a beloved pet, you can determine who will keep it if the relationship ends. In today’s digital age, some couples even include a provision preventing the sharing of intimate details and derogatory remarks on social media.
Other terms to consider may include:
- Opting for alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, in the case of a divorce.
- Outlining how retirement and business assets will be handled.
- Determining who will be responsible for expenses related to the marital home.
- Establishing whether one spouse will assume responsibility for the other’s student loans.
- Differentiating between marital and separate properties.
Do I Need a Prenuptial Agreement?
The necessity of a prenuptial agreement depends on your location and your goals. In community property states, assets acquired during the marriage are typically divided equally in a divorce, while separate property remains with the original owner. If you are content with these general rules, you may not require a prenup. However, if you have specific ideas about how assets should be divided or if you possess separate property that you want to protect, a prenuptial agreement could provide peace of mind. It can also ensure that neither party is obligated to pay alimony in the event of a breakup.
Should I Hire an Attorney?
Each state has its own rules regarding prenuptial agreements. If you are unfamiliar with these laws or find them difficult to interpret, it is advisable to seek legal counsel. In some states, it may even be mandatory for both parties to have their own attorneys review the prenup.
Independent Legal Advice
To ensure the validity of your agreement, it is highly recommended that each spouse hires their own attorney. Courts often scrutinize prenuptial agreements closely. If only one party has legal representation, it could raise concerns about understanding and fairness, potentially leading a court to reject the contract during divorce proceedings. To avoid this, both individuals should have an opportunity to obtain independent legal advice and understanding of the terms.
Talk to Your Spouse First
Open and honest communication with your partner is crucial when considering a prenuptial agreement. It allows you to address concerns and ensure that both parties feel treated fairly. Your attorneys will help you draft the agreement based on your desires, ensuring its legal validity in your specific state.
If you are considering a prenup but opt not to hire an attorney, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with resources that provide guidance on drafting prenuptial agreements, such as those available on Nolo’s website.
How Do I Find a Qualified Attorney?
When searching for a competent lawyer, seeking referrals from family and friends in your area is a good starting point. Additionally, many states provide resources to help you find an attorney, such as the Lawyer Referral Network offered by the State Bar of Michigan. Online lawyer directories like Nolo’s can also provide comprehensive profiles of qualified attorneys, including their experience, fees, and education. Rest assured that all attorneys listed on Nolo’s directory are licensed and in good standing with the local bar association.
For additional information on prenuptial agreements and guidance in finding an attorney, visit Garrity Traina.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice. Consult with an attorney for personalized guidance.