Summertime is wedding season, which can make the early part of the year, for a family lawyer, “prenup season.”
We encourage proactive planning for major life events, and a wedding is definitely a major life event. Part of planning for a wedding should ideally include learning about the financial rules that change when two lives are joined by marriage. If the background rules set up by the law are not what the couple wants to apply to their union then couples can specify for themselves what rules apply by using a prenuptial agreement.
Many people assume prenuptial agreements only cover what happens if the couple divorces, and as a result have a negative association of the agreements as “planning for divorce,” but the agreements often cover much more than the possibility of divorce. Prenuptial agreements typically address what happens with income and management of property during the marriage, and what happens when the marriage ends upon the death of one or both spouses, as well as what the spouses expect if one spouse later seeks a divorce. Ideally spouses should be able to talk about how finances will be managed to ensure their expectations are consistent, and proactive planning can help bring clarity and avoid dissatisfaction or arguments from the spouses realizing later that they actually had different expectations.
We encourage spouses to discuss finances early in the wedding planning process to make sure there is time to enter into an agreement that would alter the default rules that will apply once the marriage occurs. When couples seek a prenuptial agreement too close to the wedding date there is often concern that the agreement was made under duress of an impending wedding. Ideally we like to see couples and complete an agreement before the wedding invitations are sent. Spouses can also enter into agreements after a wedding, but at that point the default rules are already in place, and we like to take the opportunity to plan in advance when we can.
If you are engaged and want to understand the financial consequences of a marriage, consider reaching out to reputable family and estate planning lawyers. Proactive planning is a great way to avoid anxiety from uncertainty about what lies ahead.