A very frequent question I am asked in my practice is do I need premarital (or sometimes referred to as a Prenuptial) Agreement. A premarital agreement can be important to someone for a variety of different reasons. The first important aspect of deciding whether you want or need a premarital agreement, is to understand what such an agreement can accomplish and address. A premarital agreement can address things like:
- how you are going to treat assets and debts that each of you bring into a marriage (examples include real property, retirement assets, inheritance, student loans, support you pay for a prior relationship);
- how you want to treat assets your earn or are gifted to you during the marriage (this can include compensation, bonuses, stock option grants, inheritance, etc.);
- how you are going to pay your day to day bills;
- do you want to pay each other spousal support (or do you want to limit it in some way);
- do you want to provide for each other in your estate plans;
- do you want to make gifts to each other;
A premarital agreement can be a very positive experience for a couple when it is approached openly and collaboratively. The objective of a premarital agreement, in my view, should be to address both parties needs and concerns going into their marriage in a way that allows a couple to (1) start their lives together with a solid foundation of being able to talk to each other about difficult topics and (2) find their own solutions. Often, people’s needs and concerns arise from their past experiences (fears that arise from their parents bad divorce, their own bad divorce, or pressure from their families).
My feeling is that a premarital agreement should be something that is created together, addressing your respective needs and concerns, and reflecting who you are as individuals as well as who you want to be as a couple starting your lives together. Such an agreement can help a couple set their expectations going into their marriage and allow them each to express how they visualize their marital partnership.
If you decide you do want a premarital agreement, your next step would be to meet with a family law professional to talk about how to best go about creating a premarital agreement and the different processes and professionals you can utilize to help you.
Lissa Rapoport is a family law attorney in San Francisco and Marin County. firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.