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Should you consider a prenuptial agreement?

If you’ll soon be getting married, congratulations on the new chapter of life you’re about to start! But have you considered whether you could benefit from some legal protection before the big day arrives? If you’re like most people, you likely have a visceral reaction to the phrase “prenuptial agreement.” These contracts have earned a bad reputation because of who used to use them and how they were used.

But thankfully, that is changing, and an increasing number of couples are entering into prenuptial agreements. Below is some important information about prenups that you may not have previously considered.

Dispelling myths and superstitions

You’ve probably heard or even thought the following sentiment: “people who get prenups are expecting to get divorced,” or even “prenuptial agreements curse the marriage to end in divorce.” But are these statements true? Think about similar protective measures. Do you buy car insurance because you expect to get into an accident? Is wearing a bicycle helmet an invitation for cars to hit you while you’re out riding?

Even if it is a remote possibility, divorce is still a possibility. And as long as that’s the case, you might as well set the terms ahead of time to reduce costs, time and acrimony if divorce ever becomes necessary. This is the core purpose of prenuptial agreements, along with protecting each spouse’s most important assets.

Prenuptial agreements now more necessary than in the past

A couple generations ago, most Americans married in their late teens or early 20s. Many hadn’t finished (or started) college, and no one had an established career. In other words, couples married young and neither spouse had any personal assets to speak of.

Today, Americans are entering into first marriages later in life – often in their late 20s to early 30s. Men and women are becoming “breadwinners” at about equal rates, and each spouse is likely to come into a marriage with at least modest assets and a career path. For these reasons, it makes more sense for couples to seek a prenuptial agreement to protect their separate assets acquired prior to marriage.

Who does not need a prenup?

If you and your fiancé are relatively financially matched and neither of you is expecting a large influx of assets (like an inheritance), you don’t necessarily need a prenuptial agreement. There is, after all, a financial cost to working with an attorney to draft and review a prenup. That being said, you may still want a prenup if you believe that writing one could shield you from a protracted, acrimonious divorce in the future.

Other considerations

Prenuptial agreements can actually improve the strength of a future marriage because they force couples to address issues like spending, debt, long-term plans and expectations. As such, they can be beneficial to the health of the relationship.

But prenuptial agreements can be legally unsound or destabilizing to a relationship if not handled correctly. In short, broach the subject and write the contract well before the wedding, make sure each spouse is equally on board with the plan and ensure that each spouse consults with a separate attorney before signing. Follow these rules and your prenup is likely to be an asset rather than a liability.