Do You Need a Prenup?

Etiquette, Planning Tips
do you need a prenup

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I'm not an attorney, but lots of brides ask me if I think they should get a prenuptial agreement before they get married. The first thing I do is tell them to talk to their parents and an attorney, in addition to discussing it with their fiancé.

The simple fact of the matter is that if neither one of you has any significant assets going into the marriage, and there's nothing whacky about the laws in the state where you reside, a prenup might just be an unnecessary expense that causes the two of you to fight over things you haven't yet earned or acquired.

There's some totally unromantic about discussing what happens if your marriage doesn't survive at the same time you're figuring out the seating arrangements for your wedding reception. So most couples don't want to deal with it. And those that must ,frequently put it off until closer to the wedding date than is tasteful. That delay can also cause undue stress because the other fiancé needs a chance to have their own attorney review any legal paperwork prior to signing it.

With that said, there are some specific situations that would make the need for prenup a little more obvious, and you should definitely consult an attorney:

1. If one half of the couple has large family assets, or complicated trusts, a prenuptial agreement may not even be up for discussion — it's a given.

2. When one half of the couple is employed by the family business, and paid with equity in addition to salary, it's probably a good idea to define what will be considered joint income and assets within the marriage ahead of time, so that there's no questions about what anyone is entitled to if the marriage is eventually dissolved.

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3. In states where Napoleonic code is the law, a prenuptial agreement may protect a woman's assets more than any state law. In Puerto Rico, for example, a married woman cannot buy property by herself with her own money without her husband on the house title UNLESS she has a prenuptial agreement completely separating all of their assets. Do your homework where you live before you find yourself in an irreversible situation in a place where post-nuptial agreements are not legally enforceable. I learned that one the hard way!

4. Depending on what kind of business one or both halves of the couple work in, a prenuptial agreement may be necessary to protect their share of business assets, and be required by the corporation. If one fiancé own his or her own company, or is in a partnership, the prenuptial agreement may be necessary to define what happens to the business in the case of a divorce.

Nobody likes to discuss prenuptial agreements, but for many couples, the conversation has to happen. My best advice is to have the conversation early in the wedding planning process so it's over and done with long before the real wedding fun begins.

Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events, a full-service traditional and destination wedding planning company and Do-It-Yourself wedding planning consulting service for DIY brides and grooms based in the Washington, DC area. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show "Wedding Island," about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques. Sandy's book "How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional," will be released on March 1st, but is available online for pre-orders now where books are sold.

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