Marriage is a contract. The decision of two individuals to become life partners springs from a great deal of love, respect, hope, and commitment. But in the end it is the law that defines the nature of marriage; it makes two separate estates into one, and gives each person claims on the other. It is important that you understand this before actually taking out a marriage license and signing the contract that is a part of it, which you will have to do.
You may be bursting with love and affection for your intended. But it does not follow that you should go into a legal binding institution blindly. You have assets to protect. You have worked and labored and sacrificed a great deal to build up your fortune. Although you are willing to share it with the person you want to marry, it must be on your terms.
Many people are squeamish about asking their future partners to sign a prenuptial agreement, and their partners tend to have some reservations about signing one. In the eyes of many, a prenup suggests bad faith; it is a sign that the person asking for one is not fully committed to the relationship and can already see the dissolution of a marriage that has not even taken place.
This can be an especially troubling if you have amassed a considerable fortune and are now entering into your first marriage. Inexperience with balancing the two realities—your assets and a marriage you hope to sustain—may give your pause. It shouldn’t. In many ways, a prenuptial agreement is not about you. It is about protecting your capital.
If you are someone who owes your money and resources to your ownership, management, and deep connections to a range of ventures and business interests, you must do all that you can to keep those things intact and under your control. You may have done well for yourself over the years, but the fact remains that a lot of people depend on the same capital that has made you so well off. You cannot expose all of your going concerns to the possible dangers of a failed marriage in which the other party is entitled to half of what you own.
It is a possibility you have no choice but to consider. Marriages fail all the time for a variety of reasons. You may believe that you know all there is to know about your life partner to be. You may think you can trust them and put your faith in their willingness to always do the right thing. There may be sufficient grounds for believing all of this, but the fact is both people and circumstances change and you cannot always predict where that will lead.
Without a prenuptial agreement the court decides how assets will be divided. In New York state the law holds that the assets be divided in half. This could prove disastrous for your fortune and your interests. Drawing up a prenuptial agreement is the most effective way of protecting yourself against such a contingency. There are different arrangements you can make.
You formulate an agreement that keeps all of the assets you’re entering the marriage with from being infringed. Or you can agree to a set number of things that go to your partner if the two of you divorce. If the latter happens, the judge will decide the terms of alimony and if the two you have children or enter the marriage with children of our own a separate custody hearing will have to be held to determine parenting arrangements. But ownership of some of the larger and more significant assets can be decided before the marriage.
Thus far this article has focused on individuals of wealth. But prenuptial agreements are not only for rich people. If you are an ordinary person with an average income, you should also consider getting a prenuptial agreement.
It is unlikely that you or your partner will enter the marriage free of debt. In fact, you may be entering a relationship with someone who has considerable debt. Although you see no reason for believing that the person will not be able to pay it off, you put yourself at risk if you marry them without a prenup. If things do not work out between you, creditors could hold you responsible for what they owe even after the divorce.
A prenuptial agreement can stipulate that neither party is responsible for the other’s debt if divorce ensues. This will ensure that the person cannot simply run off after the divorce and leave you saddled with the responsibility of paying off the debt.
Family property and heirlooms can also be secured with a prenuptial agreement. If you want to protect precious objects, furniture, jewelry and other items that you have inherited from being part of any future divorce settlement, you can do that with a prenup. The same kind of agreement puts future monetary and real estate inheritances off limits. These may or may not be worth a lot of money, but the point is they were meant to stay in the family. You should protect that status by all means at your disposal.
Speaking with a lawyer is the way to find out what kind of prenuptial agreement is for you. It will help you go into the marriage with some surety and protection.