Rights and Obligations with Prenuptial Agreement
By Jeffrey Broobin
Prenuptial agreements are like insurance policies. You do the paperwork, and then hope you'll never need it.
However, since half of marriages end in divorce within the first seven years, you may want to consider a prenuptial
agreement before you walk down the aisle and say, "I do."
Since you could later be engaged in a nasty, costly, and emotionally draining divorce some day, you should
consider a prenuptial agreement as a precaution. Below we have given you some information on what is in a
prenuptial agreement and whether it could be useful for you.
A prenuptial or ante nuptial agreement is a document signed by two people who intend to be married. It describes
their rights and obligations should they get divorced. A prenuptial agreement informs the court how they want their
assets and property divided up.
Divorces become messy when parties cannot agree on the distribution of property, such things as the house, the
house, stocks, and bonds and whether one party should pay the other alimony, now known as "maintenance" in most
states. Assume that the husband has $1,000,000 in his own name prior to the marriage. A properly drafted prenuptial
agreement can award that same $1,000,000 to him after a divorce, notwithstanding what he does with the money, such
as purchasing a home in joint tenancy or shifting the money into other accounts. Without a prenuptial agreement,
the wife might be entitled to one-half of the $1,000,000 or more, depending on the financial circumstances of the
parties at the time of the divorce. The prenuptial agreement is a powerful and valuable tool that can favor the
husband, protect the wife, or serve both of them fairly. It is a question of circumstances and intentions.
Candidates for prenuptial agreements used to be just older individuals with huge estates that they wanted to
protect from gold diggers for their children from previous marriages. Since more millionaires are born every day,
the candidate pool is growing by leaps and bounds. Now everybody has something to protect: an unpublished author,
the budding inventor, anybody with a lucrative profession or a good idea. So, before you dismiss the idea of a
prenuptial agreement, assess your situation in life and your long-term future in deciding whether a prenuptial
agreement is right for you.
Consider at length the nature and extent of your present and possible future assets. A prenuptial agreement can
be a very simple document running only a few pages that segregates each party's assets owned before the marriage,
or it can be a very complicated document that runs dozens of pages because it deals with income and assets acquired
during the marriage, the payment of debts, attorneys' fees, alimony/maintenance, and other financial matters. The
next hurdle is raising the issue with your intended spouse, a very unromantic event. It helps to get it over with
early. Perhaps you could blame it on someone else, such as your parents who may want to involve you in a family
business, or possible business partners.
If you have no one to hold responsible, just be honest. Tell your future spouse that you intend to be open,
fair, and honest, and the fact that you will be revealing all your assets is a sign of trust. Assure your intended
that he or she will be protected during the negotiation procedure and in the prenuptial agreement, and stress that
the document is something you feel is necessary and wise before you get married. The most important thing is to
discuss it earlier instead of later, so that the degree of pressure before the wedding is mitigated.
Couples do not usually break engagements because of disputes over prenuptial agreements. In almost every
instance, the agreement is signed and the parties are married. It is also completely appropriate to state that you
will not get married without a prenuptial agreement; case law has indicated that this will not invalidate an
agreement if made before the wedding.
The best way to avoid charges of duress or coercion is to tell your future spouse early on that you want the
prenuptial agreement. Sometimes, such documents are signed shortly before the wedding, but have been the subject of
negotiation for months. A well-drafted agreement will recite the fact that, even though it was signed shortly
before or on the wedding date, negotiations began much earlier. It is for clauses like this that you consult
Eventually, a prenuptial agreement will be fashioned so that you and your future spouse both accept it. The
terms may not be what you initially envisioned and may not be what your intended would want. But that is the nature
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