Don't jump to any conclusions if a prenuptial agreement is brought up before you tie the knot. "Prenups are about planning for your marriage, not divorce, and ensuring that you and your spouse create an understanding," says Michael Boulette, a divorce and family law attorney at Lindquist & Vennum in Minneapolis. "During your marriage you'll probably create a financial plan and an estate plan. A prenup is a marriage plan to ensure that what you value as a couple gets legal protection."
Think of it as writing your own rules, instead of trusting that your state legislature has your best interest at heart. Unless you prefer to skip a cake-tasting appointment to study divorce laws, read on to learn why prenups aren't a bad thing.
1. You're an entrepreneur.
Maybe you haven't been on Shark Tank (yet), but if you have a business, even a small one, make sure it's protected. Whether you're an Ebay seller, launched an Etsy shop, peddle jam at the farmer's market, or freelance in anyway, writing-in special considerations ensures that if something goes wrong in the marriage it's not going to end your business as well. Likewise, if your partner is leaving the paid workforce to start something new, you don't want to get stuck with someone else's business debts if plans don't pan out as expected.
2. Your work priorities change.
Suppose a spouse decides to swap a lucrative career for a few years of household management, or graduate school, before returning to the work force. Those years out of office are more than lost salary; they are also unclaimed opportunities and experiences. Regardless of who's supporting whom, it's important that non-monetary contributions, including giving up your beloved job to move to a new city for a partner's new job, don't get overlooked.
3. One of you plans to go back to school.
Every state deals with the division of debts somewhat differently, but in many states debts incurred during the marriage are considered "marital debts" and are subject to division between spouses upon divorce. That means that if your spouse racked up $300,000 getting an MBA during the marriage, you might be expected to pay some portion of that debt, or the property awarded to you might be reduced in order to account for the debt your spouse is taking on. Practically speaking, many courts recognize that student debt will directly benefit the spouse who got the degree and hold that spouse largely responsible. Still, if you pay down your spouse's student debt during the marriage (say, instead of saving for retirement), few states will makes sure that you're "made whole" or that your spouse compensates you for the benefit they received by having you pay down that debt.
4. You might get some inheritance.
Outline how inheritances will be treated upfront. Without a prenup, spouses are left trying to show that their inheritance was their "separate" or "non-marital" property, a process that can actually eat up the entire inheritance in legal fees. This is a particularly tricky if one spouse uses the inheritance for the benefit of the family while the other spouse puts it in a savings account. In some states, that could result in the generous spouse walking with none of the inheritance while the selfish spouse gets all of it.
5. You're a fair person.
Even during the most amicable of divorces, true fairness can be hard to pin down since each spouse views the marriage and their contributions somewhat differently; thus, making it difficult to zone in on what's actually yours. A prenup is a chance to decide what's fair when you still have each other's best interests at heart, and make these beliefs legally binding.