As society adjusts to the fact that the coronavirus pandemic is here to stay, events and celebrations such as weddings are steadily increasing in number. With that, comes the inevitable request from friends and clients as to whether they should be considering a prenuptial agreement before getting married. In fact, a former client called me just this past week as he is considering getting married for the second time. We discussed, in detail, the benefits of a prenuptial agreement in his situation. Here are some of the things he wanted to know:
1. Do I really need a prenuptial agreement?
In my former client’s case, a prenuptial agreement made sense for several reasons. First, he was getting married for the second time and has children from his previous marriage. He wanted to make sure his kids would receive certain assets in the event of his death or a divorce from his new wife. A prenuptial agreement can be effective for this purpose. We can use the prenuptial agreement to exclude certain assets from the marital estate and keep those assets intact for his children. Additionally, as these two individuals are getting married a bit later in life, he had accumulated significant assets. He wanted to be sure that he retained these assets if he got divorced as he had worked his whole career to obtain them. Further, after experiencing a difficult and costly divorce the first time around, he didn’t want to take the chance of the same thing happening again.
A prenuptial agreement can specify how assets – and debts – will be divided in the event of divorce.
2. How long before the wedding should a prenuptial agreement be completed?
In Pennsylvania, there is no law that requires a prenuptial agreement to be completed any specific length of time before the marriage. However, I often advise clients to start the process about 6 months before the wedding date. This allows both people to gather the necessary information, share it with each other, consult with attorneys and review the agreement. As there is a requirement for parties to make financial disclosure to one another for the agreement to be valid, this often takes time to gather, exchange and review as well. Importantly, the days and weeks prior to a wedding are often stressful. Trying to complete a prenuptial agreement at the same time often adds an unnecessary level of anxiety for the bride and groom.
3. It’s awkward to discuss a prenuptial agreement with my fiancé – what do I say?
Whether the purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to protect a family business, protect assets acquired prior to the marriage or just to prevent a “messy” divorce, the best thing you can do is have an honest conversation with your intended spouse about why you feel a prenuptial agreement is the right thing for your relationship. While the conversation might be difficult at first, once the other person understands your reasoning, he or she may be more receptive to the idea. It’s helpful to point out that a prenuptial agreement can be structured in a variety of ways and can be drafted so that both parties feel protected financially in the event of divorce or death.
If you are considering getting married and are wondering if a prenuptial agreement is right for you, a conversation with an attorney can be helpful in making that determination.