Personal Finance

Should You Get a Prenup?

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Getting married is usually surrounded by romance and excitement, but becoming a married couple typically entails some lifestyle changes. It can be overwhelming to focus on the big day itself, but it’s also important to think about what happens after the wedding. Talking about your finances before walking down the aisle can help you make them a priority as a couple. Too often finances can be an uncomfortable topic for couples.

Not all marriages last a lifetime but some people feel discussing an end to marriage before it begins is a bad sign. Others believe thinking about it can save you emotional and financial stress later, as well as help you enter your marriage with an honest, open conversation about finances, leading to a healthy and happy relationship. Whichever camp you fall into, it’s a good idea to consider the pros and cons.

The Pros

It is often said that one of the most common reasons married couples fight is money — getting it all out in the open before you take your vows may help avoid this in the future. Discussing a prenup brings up not only finances, but families, legal issues, plans, hopes and priorities. In addition to protecting your separate property and defining what property is marital or community, it can help clarify special arrangements.

Sometimes a bride or groom wants to protect family heirlooms, homes and other legacies. Even if these items are minimal, you still may want to ensure they stay within the family in case of divorce or death. In a similar vein, individuals who have a high-paying job or well-established business may want to maintain controlling interest in the event of divorce.

On the other side of the same coin, if one member of a couple enters the marriage with debt, the prenup can help protect the other from being responsible for payments in case of bad financial luck. Your credit scores can be impacted by your spouse during a marriage and even after, so it’s important to understand where you and your significant other both stand. You can each check your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.

Another instance where a prenup is important is if either person has children from a previous relationship and wants to protect them in case of death or divorce.

The Cons

Some argue that signing a prenuptial agreement gets in the way of romance. Even though marriage is as much a financial partnership as a romantic one, discussing divorce can be a downer at a time of great joy.

Prenups also may not adequately prepare for the future because you cannot predict what is to come. Perhaps a one spouse has an established business but through the course of the marriage the other spouse takes on a bigger role in that business. The prenup may not account for this.

Also, you may not be able to think of everything that could come up in your prenuptial agreement and still fight through the divorce process. Just having a prenuptial agreement doesn’t guarantee a smooth divorce. You also may end up signing more rights away than prudent because you do not want to fight before the wedding or make a big production about this “in case” plan.

Some states (including California, Arizona and Texas) are community property states. This means that most property acquired during marriage belongs to both spouses and will be divided in the event of a divorce. The specific rules about how the property will be divided varies by state. A valid prenuptial agreement may override the community property law.

Getting a prenup is ultimately a personal decision for you and your betrothed. Being open and honest about your finances before you get married can establish a positive means of communication that lasts throughout your future together. Whether you decide to draw up a legal document or not, be sure that you have open communication about finances and agree on future goals and spending.

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