The Millennial Prenup: Here's What You Need to Know
Has a prenuptial agreement become a marriage must-have for younger brides and grooms?
When you're planning your wedding, it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the decisions that have to be made. In addition to the fun ones, like choosing the cake flavors and the flowers for each boutonnière, there are a few not so romantic ones, like whether or not you'll sign a prenuptial agreement. On the fence? It might be helpful to know that these legal documents have become increasingly common among millennial couples. According to a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 51 percent of attorneys polled reported an increase in the number of millennial clients seeking a prenup.
Why are more and more couples opting in favor of these legal documents? Although the idea of creating a prenup is probably the least exciting item on your to-do list, Alan Rubenstein, a family and divorce attorney and former marriage counselor, says that they provide couples with invaluable protection. "Prenups typically cover whether there will be alimony and if so, how much; if inherited assets will be treated as marital property; and if appreciation of separate property is considered marital property," says Rubenstein.
And he stresses that they're not just for the super-rich or the Beyoncés of the world. For millennials especially, they're popular for a number of different reasons. First and foremost, brides and grooms are getting married later in life. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age at which women were getting married in 1990 was 23.9. In 2017, it jumped to 27.4. Because couples are waiting until they're older to tie the knot, they have more time to establish their careers and build their own wealth. That means they're walking down the aisle with more assets to protect.
Plus, they have big ideas and are often entrepreneurial. In addition to working full-time jobs, many men and women have side hustles or ideas for the latest app. Those ideas can be worth big money later on, so some people decide on a prenup as a way to protect their intellectual property.
But they're not just popular because couples are trying to protect their own assets. Unfortunately, millennials also deal with high levels of debt (according to a study by MONEY, people under the age of 35 are $67,400 in debt, on average), so a prenup can protect one partner from being on the hook for those monthly payments. "Interestingly, the payment of individual debt during a marriage does often factor into a divorce settlement," said Rubenstein. "For instance, if one partner is a primary breadwinner and also paid for the other partner's student loans, alimony or asset allocation might be impacted by the payment of the student loans."
If you and your future husband or wife decide you want to come up with a prenuptial agreement, you should do so together. According to Sara Stanizai, a licensed marriage and family therapist, building a prenuptial agreement as a team can actually help you two come closer together, not drive you apart. "It can open lines of communication," said Stanizai. "For couples who avoid uncomfortable conversations, it can give them practice that will be useful when there are other uncomfortable talks they need to have later."
If you decide to move forward, review it carefully. "If you do decide on a prenup, just like any other contract: don't sign it without reading it in full, and have your lawyer look at it," advises Stanizai. "Make sure you treat the legal document with the gravity it deserves."
Talking about prenups might not be swoon-inducing, but it's an important conversation to have with your partner. Have an open conversation about why developing a prenup is important to you, and listen to and address their concerns. Being able to share your worries and hopes is a major step toward building the life you want together.