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Premarital Agreement Issues Checklist
There are many details to think about when you're planning your wedding; however, a prenuptial agreement (also known as a premarital agreement) shouldn't be left to the last minute. Here's a list of issues to think about before you speak to your fiance and your lawyer regarding a premarital agreement. If often helps to know your own feelings about these issues before decide to talk to your fiance about them:
Premarital Assets and Debts
You'll want to make an exhaustive list of your assets and debts that are currently in your name. It's required for your prenuptial agreement, and it's also good practice about being up front and straightforward about financial issues with your new marital partner. Below are some questions to think about when thinking about premarital assets and debts:
Marital property describes the assets and debts that you will accumulate together once you are married. Below are some questions to think about regarding marital property:
Management of Assets and Income
People tend to be either spenders or savers. Given that opposites tend to attract each other, it's typical for a couple to have very different money styles. That can work out just fine, provided that you each know about the other's priorities and goals and provided you can work out a way for each person's needs to be met. For example, one partner might be concerned about retirement savings and future security. The other partner may feel that money is to be enjoyed and spent for things like vacations and luxury vehicles as part of a well-lived life. Can these styles be reconciled? The answer is yes, of course, provided that you have a plan for what will be set aside for retirement and what's available to use for enjoyment. Some questions to ask yourself regarding the management of assets and income are:
Credit and Debt
Have you seen each other's credit reports? Now might be a good time to have a serious talk about credit scores and priorities with respect to paying off old debt or accumulating new debt.
What are your views on non-monetary contributions, like raising children or managing the household? Most states recognize these types of contributions during a marriage, but it's important that you share your attitude, and that you know your fiance's attitude about these types of roles in a marriage. Below you will find some questions to think about in regards work:
Spousal Support and/or Alimony
How do you feel about spousal support? In most states, the rights to claim support go to both the husband and wife. You don't have to address this in your agreement if you don't want to, but it makes sense to talk about it. Some issues you may want to talk about are the following:
Gifts from Families
Sometimes one set of parents or relatives gives a couple a large monetary gift, loan or a home down-payment. It is important to make clear what kind of gift this is. Below are some questions to ask when faced with this situation:
Once you are married, your finances will be intertwined for tax purposes unless you agree otherwise as part of your premarital agreement. It is important to be clear on what your attitudes and opinions are in regards to paying taxes. Some questions you may want to ask each other:
Sometimes one spouse will want to or need to return to school. This situation may leave one spouse to support the other while he or she pursues a degree. In this situation, it is important to communicate clearly with each other the expectations of each party. Some helpful questions to ask:
Duration of the Premarital Agreement
It is up to you and your spouse to decide how long a premarital agreement may remain in effect. Couples can ask themselves if the agreement will stand forever or if it will expire at some point:
If you or your spouse own a business separately, there are special issues you should consider.
Fault can be defined as who is to blame for the divorce. Fault can be evidenced by an affair, drug or alcohol abuse, among other things. However, most state laws either won't consider fault, or barely consider fault, in dividing property or awarding spousal support in a divorce situation:
Death or Disability
You will want to have a comprehensive estate plan in place soon after your wedding, particularly if you have children from previous relationships, so that your assets and debts are handled the way you intend if you were to pass away.
In order to begin drafting a premarital agreement, you'll each need a complete list of your current assets, debts and income, as well as any health issues you might have.
You may also want to consider including a clause that says you'll mediate any issues that come up that you can't resolve on your own or that you will seek professional marriage counseling before considering divorce. Also, another helpful clause may state that the two of you will choose to mediate in the event of a divorce, or use a collaborative law or alternative dispute resolution press rather than litigation.
Generally, debts incurred during the marriage are community obligations. This includes credit card bills, even if the credit card is in one name only. Student loans are an important exception because they are considered separate property debts. Community property possessions and community property debts are divided equally unless both spouses agree to an unequal division in writing. If spouses can't agree on the division of debts and possessions, a judge makes that decision.
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