If you’re like most people planning a wedding, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is divorce. Unfortunately, many people avoid thinking about prenuptial agreements because they don’t want their special day shrouded in thoughts of how things might end. However, prenups are an important part of marriage planning for many reasons.
So, it becomes extremely important to answer the question, “Why would anyone want a prenup?”
In fact, it’s becoming more common for those who are entering a high-asset marriage to consider a prenup because they want to know that their assets will be protected in the event that their marriage ends. However, prenuptial agreements are for more than just the rich. A prenup can be for anyone who wants to protect their future.
What Is a Prenup?
A prenup, or a prenuptial agreement, is a legal agreement made between two parties before they get married. Its primary purpose is to protect any assets they may be bringing into the marriage and to help streamline the division of assets and other decisions made if the marriage ends. However, a prenup can protect more than just assets – marital agreements can serve many other purposes as well.
What Is the Main Purpose of a Prenup?
As mentioned, the primary purpose of a prenup is to help both spouses protect their assets if the marriage ends. That’s why, when drafting a prenuptial agreement, each party must list any assets they have before the marriage takes place. With a complete list of assets, the couple can then outline exactly how the assets should be handled or disbursed should the marriage end.
Assets typically include:
- Bank accounts
- Valuable property, such as jewelry, cars, or art
- Retirement accounts
- Real estate
What Are the Most Common Reasons Why People Get Prenups?
There are many reasons couples obtain prenups or other types of marital agreements. Prenups can not only outline how assets should be handled in the event of a divorce, but they may also include other terms. For example, they may include a lifestyle clause that would take into account infidelity or custody agreements for children and pets.
It’s important to recognize that many people, not just wealthy individuals or people seeking second or third marriages, can benefit from prenuptial agreements. Here are some of the most common reasons couples get a prenup.
To Protect Their Current Assets
Possibly, the most common reason for a prenup is to protect any assets you have before the marriage. This is especially useful for people who are wealthy or have amassed a number of personal assets before the marriage. The prenup may specify which assets must remain personal assets or exactly how assets should be divided in the event of a divorce. A prenup can prevent one spouse from losing important assets in divorce and also keep couples from spending extensive time fighting over property in court.
To Protect Any Future Assets
While people anticipating marriage are typically concerned about protecting what they currently have, a prenup can allow you to protect any future assets as well. Consider the cautionary tale of Jeff Bezos, who famously did not have a prenup in place that protected his future assets and lost half of his wealth in his divorce. A prenup can ensure all future assets are divided how you and your spouse see fit at the time of your marriage, which can be especially helpful for younger couples.
To Protect Income
Protecting future income is extremely important and can be viewed separately from assets like a home, a vehicle, or other property. Income can include hourly wages, salary, raises, bonuses, commissions, and even income earned from rental properties. Having a prenup in place can help you protect your wages should a divorce occur.
To Address Wealth Differences
Not all parties enter marriage on equal footing with one another. So, while prenups are often established to protect the wealthier party from losing assets in a divorce, they can also help to protect the lower wage earner. For example, you can include a lump wealth equalization payment in a prenuptial agreement or even address spousal support. However, keep in mind that prenups must be considered reasonably fair to both parties for them to be valid in the eyes of the court.
To Address Spousal Support
While you cannot use a prenup to pre-determine an amount for spousal support (otherwise known as spousal maintenance), you can address the possibility of spousal support in a prenup. This could mean waiving spousal support or stating whether or not each party could be entitled to spousal support before eventually allowing a judge to make the final payment decision. It can also allow you to place a limit on how long a spouse is obligated to pay spousal support. Whether you anticipate being the spouse paying support or the spouse receiving it, addressing spousal support can be a very important component of a prenup.
To Determine Financial Obligations
As a prenuptial agreement must take place before the marriage officially starts, it is especially useful for defining what financial obligations each party should have during the marriage. This can be useful if one party member earns significantly more than the other or if one party will have other obligations. A prenup can also define how financial decisions should be made if a couple experiences a dispute. Establishing these terms in writing before a marriage can prevent issues during the marriage.
To Safeguard Against Debt
In Arizona, debts accrued during the marriage are divided roughly equally during a divorce. Being left with debt can be a serious issue, especially if you had very little part in accruing it. Protecting yourself from your partner’s debt or protecting your partner from your own debt is a reason many people create a prenuptial agreement. It can define who is responsible for any debt brought into the marriage as well as debt acquired during the marriage.
To Protect a Business
Anyone who owns a business knows how important it is to protect it financially. Unfortunately, without a prenup, a business is often considered a marital asset and could be subject to division. With a prenup, you can protect your current business from division, as well as any future businesses that may be established after your marriage.
To Protect Gifts and Inheritances
Whether you have already or expect to one day receive a large gift from a family member or close friend, protecting these gifts can be a good reason to create a prenup. Gifts and inheritances given to one spouse are typically considered personal property, but those given to a couple can exist on shaky legal grounds. A prenup can ensure that these gifts or inheritances are divided or assigned according to your wishes should a divorce occur.
To Protect Your Heirs’ Inheritances
While inheritances are typically considered personal property during asset division, a prenup can help you define how you want to distribute your assets in the event of your death. Until you have an estate plan in place to outline who should inherit your assets, a prenup can help.
For example, when a parent brings children into a second or third marriage, there may be a question regarding who should inherit portions of the estate after that parent’s death. Without a prenuptial agreement or estate plan in place, there’s no guarantee that your assets will be shared with your children according to your wishes – instead, the court will assign assets to your next of kin as determined by the probate process. You can clearly define which of your heirs should receive assets and prevent probate court from making that decision according to Arizona law.
To Determine Placement of Pets
For many individuals, determining who should receive any pets at the time of divorce is an extremely important decision. Unfortunately, many people use pets as a bargaining chip in the same way they use children. Arizona considers pets either community or individual property depending on whether they were acquired during the marriage. That means you’ll want to draft a prenup to predetermine how you’ll place your pets after a divorce.
To Protect Your Social Image
In the digital age, your public persona is important, and an ex-spouse can easily post damaging information about you in a moment of anger. A prenup can help you protect your public image in the event of a divorce by establishing a penalty for posting humiliating images or words.
To Set General Expectations
As much as you may hope that you can communicate well as you face marriage, marriage involves many decisions that must be made by two people who are relatively new to handling the legal aspects of their relationship together. A prenup can help you outline the way you want to approach many major decisions that arise or at least ensure you begin thinking about how you want to handle decision-making during your marriage. If a divorce should occur, you will already be prepared to make important decisions using the guidelines you have set in place via the prenup.
To Make Divorce Proceedings Easier
Divorce can be a difficult and contentious situation for anyone. It can bring up very difficult feelings, and parties often risk making less than ideal choices in an effort to come to a quick resolution. With a prenup, parties can make all the difficult decisions early on so that the divorce process can continue smoothly. While no one wants to consider divorce before they get married, being prepared can help protect both parties’ interests and reduce stress levels.
To Ensure a Less Expensive, Quicker Divorce Process
With a prenup in place, expensive lawyers and extensive fighting will be less necessary. The prenup is a binding agreement between the parties and will generally be upheld by the courts as long as the prenup is valid. When there is no prenuptial agreement, you must often pay an expensive lawyer and spend a great deal of time and money litigating your divorce in court. With a prenup, you can mitigate these issues.
How to Get a Prenup
If you have decided to create a prenup, you may choose to hire a lawyer. This is a great option for many people, especially if there are significant assets in place. However, an attorney may not be the best option for everyone, especially if you already have a solid concept of your assets and exactly what you’d like to do with them before you get married.
Instead, consider a document drafting service like Draft My Legal Docs. Our qualified and experienced family law attorneys can draft a variety of family law documents, including a prenuptial agreement, allowing you to utilize the prowess of a skilled attorney in a manner that fits your budget. Our prenuptial agreements are drafted after a personal consultation with you and your future spouse to ensure they fit your situation, meet your needs, and will be considered valid in an Arizona court.
Draft Your Prenup Today
If you are anticipating marriage and any of the above categories are a concern to you, now is the time to get your prenup underway. Keep in mind: a prenuptial agreement isn’t the taboo topic it once was, and it doesn’t have to mean that you and your partner are assuming your relationship will end in divorce. In fact, a prenup can actually free you from the most difficult decisions you and your spouse can face later, strengthening your marriage and protecting you both. It can help set expectations now, so difficult conversations don’t have to lead to relationship-ending arguments later.
The qualified attorneys at Draft My Legal Docs are here to help you draft a personalized prenuptial agreement so that you and your partner can enjoy your marriage without the looming concerns of what could happen if your marriage should end.
Let us help take the guesswork out of your marriage from beginning to end; trust Draft My Legal Docs with your prenuptial agreement today.
Jonathan Roeder is one of the founding partners of The Valley Law Group. He is an Arizona native who has dedicated his life and career to the service of others. After graduating salutatorian of his high school class, Jonathan attended beautiful and prestigious Pepperdine University, where he majored in Political Science. During his tenure at Pepperdine University, his passion for helping others grew after securing a clinical position with a residential treatment center for juveniles with substance addictions. Post-graduation, Jonathan returned to Arizona and served as a residential manager for mentally and physically disabled homes.