Premarital Agreements: Do You Need One?

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder, did not have one, should you?

Have you recently become engaged? If so, are you thinking about drawing up a premarital agreement (also known as a “prenuptial agreement,” or simply a “prenup”)? Or, perhaps your fiancé wants a premarital agreement and now you want information and advice to learn more about them. Either way, here is some information regarding premarital agreements so that you can decide if a premarital agreement is right for you.

Basically, a premarital agreement is a written, signed agreement you enter into with your fiancé before marriage that modifies California law to redefine all (or part of) the financial rights between you during marriage. Should you later get divorced, your prenup agreement will be the contract that governs your case, along with any State law you did not opt out of or change.

People often feel that premarital agreements are cold and unromantic.  When the topic is brought up, the first reaction is often that their fiancé does not believe the marriage will last. While these feelings are understandable, there are many reasons to be grateful for the opportunity to engage in discussing these issues before marriage.  Open discussions about finances and property before marriage supports a healthy and long-lasting relationship together.

Some reasons to consider developing a Premarital Agreement (PMA) with your partner before marriage include:

  • You or your fiancé have different financial backgrounds or substantially different incomes
  • One or both of you owns a home or business
  • One or both of you want to keep certain assets “separate”
  • One or both of you have children from previous relationships, or other dependents, who you want to financially protect or consider
  • You or your fiancé wants protection from debts, or potential debts of the other
  • One or both of you want to ensure a fair settlement if circumstances change such that either of you want “out” of the marriage (California is a “no fault” state, but emotions run high at separations)

In high income marriages, there may be more assets to argue over, but no matter how much or little you own, it is common to argue over everything and anything during divorce; a fairly negotiated prenuptial agreement can save you from a lot of that.  When couples litigate the terms of their separation, they lose control and the judge will make the decisions dividing the things you earned. You can spend far more on legal fees than the cost of preparing an agreement before the marriage.  By having a well-drafted premarital agreement firmly in place before the marriage, both spouses know what to expect in the case of a divorce and can enter the marriage feeling secure.

California law is very specific with regard to the legal requirements of an enforceable written agreement.  There are special rules for disclosures, time needed to review drafts, for future spousal support (alimony) limitations and independent attorney representation.  Working with a qualified family law attorney will ensure that your Premarital Agreement is fair, well understood, and enforceable.

Generally, prenuptial agreements signed by both parties will automatically become effective once the couple marries.

The law office of Family First Legal is well qualified to assist in the negotiating, drafting or reviewing of a Premarital Agreement. Our Principal Attorney Mae Adkins is a certified Family Law Specialist and has extensive experience negotiating and drafting prenuptial, post-nuptial and marital settlement agreements.

Prenuptial agreements can be an excellent tool for couples to use to strengthen their relationship and protect each other from pressures brought on by complicated income streams or assets., or simply brought on by the change from sole management of your finances, to joint management of both of your finances.  If used correctly, a prenuptial agreement offers the assurance and protection that allows the marriage to flourish through the manifold circumstances of life, instead of sinking among the rocky seas, like some less prepared marriages may do.

And for those who enjoy statistics, here a few that remind us that marriage and divorce are here to stay, at least for now:

In 2013, four-in-ten new marriages included at least one partner who had been married before, and two-in-ten new marriages were between people who had both previously stepped down the aisle. ( Pew Research Center analysis of newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Remarriage has become most common with older generations. As age increases so does the percentage of people who remarry.

18-24: 29% of previously married people will remarry

25-34: 43% of previously married people will remarry

35-44: 57% of previously married people will remarry

45-54: 63% of previously married people will remarry

55-64: 67% of previously married people will remarry

65 and up: 50% of previously married people will remarry

While roughly half of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, 67% of second marriages lead to divorce. That number jumps to 74% for third marriages.

Men are more likely than women to remarry.  In 1960, 70% of eligible men remarried as opposed to 48% of women. By 1980, those numbers were 66% and 46% respectively.

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