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Prenup: Planning for Your Happily Ever After

Most of us dream of that special day when we walk down the aisle. The bride, dressed in a froth of white with beautiful flowers in her hands, is accompanied by her groom and surrounded by their closest friends and family members as witnesses to their love. Oftentimes, this day costs us one year’s salary! Though times are changing, and couples may already live together or have purchased a house, one thing they rarely consider is what happens if their commitment fails and their marriage ends in divorce.
Whether you like it or not, Pennsylvania dictates who gets what upon a divorce unless you have an agreement stating otherwise. That’s the same as our intestacy laws: you die without a will, Pennsylvania already has written out who gets what.
So, why not change the narrative? Rather than allowing the state to tell us which assets are yours and which are your partner’s, come to an understanding beforehand. I’ve heard that this takes the romance out of the day and turns the marriage more into a business relationship than true love. However, if you allow yourself to imagine the worst – and consider that one day your fairytale could crumble – wouldn’t you rather be protected? I know I would.
So, what is a prenuptial agreement? It is a contract negotiated by the parties before the marriage. Because it is a contract, each party must have separate legal representation, unless waived. In the event of death or divorce, the terms are already drawn up. This is important, especially if there is a blended family involved.
While each prenup is different, depending on your specific assets and goals, many prenups address what should happen to those assets should the marriage end in divorce. It also dictates how much support the parties must provide to each other and what rights a party should have if the other dies. The agreement allows each party to express their expectations and voice which assets they are bringing to the table.
Alimony is a common standard, and usually just involves dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s, unless part of the agreement is broken. We traditionally will include an exception should one of the parties be unfaithful that provides either for less alimony or no alimony. The terms are quite important.
I’m asked all the time: who should have a prenup? That question is usually followed by the infamous statement: I’m not rich, I don’t need one. My advice is this: ask yourself what you are worth, not in terms of dollars and cents, but in time. The woman who helped put her husband through school so he could become a successful professional while she raised the children is kicking herself when, 30 years later, he leaves and she’s left with, what? The house? A car? What about the time she invested in him?
That is the old scenario we hear about, but today more women are working and making the same, if not more than, their spouse. So, flip the script – he leaves and now she pays him.
Obviously, no two situations are the same. Wouldn’t you wish you had considered the “what if’s” should your fairytale fall short?
Allow us to sit down with you and discuss the potential pitfalls if that one day doesn’t turn out to be your happily ever after.
If you have already walked down the aisle, then don’t worry: it’s not too late! Married couples can sign a postnuptial agreement after they’ve said “I do!” It’s never too late to secure your financial future.