When two people decide to get married, it is a joyous occasion. Planning a new life together is an exciting endeavor; it is also a demanding time, as wedding planning can be both time-consuming and stressful. Many times the idea of a prenuptial agreement – and whether or not to have one drawn up by a law firm – is either overlooked or viewed as more stress at an already trying time. Not all couples need a prenuptial agreement; however, for some it is a good idea. Understanding such agreements is important, both to determine if one is needed and how to get one drawn up without creating more wedding stress.
Why Get One?
Although divorce is what comes to mind when mentioning a prenuptial agreement – and some fear even mentioning one questions the sincerity of the marriage – this is an incorrect assumption. While such legal contracts can indeed protect partners in the event of a divorce, they are actually more important in the case of death. Having an agreement drawn up ahead of time by a law firm offers confidence that in the event of an untimely death, the surviving spouse and other family members will be protected regarding any property owned by the deceased. Avoid letting the erroneous stigma of getting a prenuptial agreement prevent you from considering all options; it is appropriate to plan ahead for such events to prevent problems later.
Who Needs One?
Couples can dictate about personal property, marital assets, and other concerns in a well-drafted prenuptial; however, there are certain things that cannot be covered by such an agreement. It cannot include anything that goes against criminal law or public policy and it cannot dictate spousal or child support as the latter will always be decided in a court of law. A prenuptial must also be a voluntary agreement by both parties, with truthfulness and fairness illustrated by the agreement – or it may not be acknowledged. The purpose of a prenuptial is to provide legal documentation of how joint and individual property belonging to a married couple should be handled if death or divorce intervenes.
Young partners without much personal property typically do not need one. On the other hand, marrying at an older age; marrying someone much older or younger; or having much personal property, inheritances or other assets before marriage is the time to consider such a step. Additionally, an agreement would be useful for documenting things such as obligations of either party after divorce or untimely death, limitations on use or sale of property, and other restrictions.
What Is Covered By One?
For those who think a prenuptial agreement would be a wise choice, it is important to not wait until the last minute before the wedding as these documents do take some time and thought to prepare. All assets need to be considered; other family members need to be protected especially minors; and distribution of personal properly should be decided before drafting an agreement. When using a prenuptial to cover what should happen in the event of an untimely death, estate planning is probably needed as well.
This is only a simple overview of prenuptial agreements and who should consider such a legal arrangement; it is advisable that every couple should consider if such a document is needed as part of wedding planning. A law firm that is experienced in the preparation of such documents can provide more information on the process and help couples decide if a prenuptial agreement is a wise choice!
Reynaldo G. Garza, III
680 E. St Charles, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520