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Do You Need A Prenuptial Agreement?

Updated on September 14, 2012

The Matters that Really Matter

Wedding dress- check, flower bouquet- check, shoe covers in case of rain- check, prenuptial agreement- what??? In your preparation for the big day have you overlooked some less romantic details? Details, that in the long run will be far more important than what color your bridemaids' dresses were? Not to rain on your parade, but if you're serious about your relationship lasting then you should consider the following information.

When it comes to premarital agreements, there's no shortage of extreme reactions and simple thinking. No matter what your opinion of premarital agreements might be, the subject is worthy of an open and honest discussion. Even if your relationship is made of the stuff that makes a prenup unnecessary, consider this- is your relationship at the level where you can discuss the issues a prenuptial agreement would address? Relationships require people to be intimate in more ways than just the physical, peeling off your financial layers can bring new meaning to the term "fully exposed.

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Do you have a premarital agreement or will you have a premarital agreement before you get married?

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Talk is Cheap, Put it in Writing

Premarital agreements, hardly a new idea

The idea of marrying for love is a fairly new concept. For much of human history marriage has been a business and/or political tool. My daughter comes with ten acres and two oxen or when our children are married the two countries will have a common crown ending our wars. Even today in many parts of the world, business still ranks higher than love when it comes to marital arrangements.

Like with modern prenups, it was not uncommon for there to be specific terms and standards of performance that both parties were expected to maintain or live up to. Fortunately, the conditions set by earlier premarital agreements have changed over time. Pressure takes on a whole new meaning when your life (or the life of those you love) is dependent on producing a male heir! Relax, today most prenups don't come with an execution clause for non performance. A prenuptial is really nothing more than a private contract between two people. Hardly a controversial event, but when love is involved it takes on a whole new meaning.

Not everyone needs a prenup, but there are some situations where a premarital agreement is a necessity. The first step in planning for your married future is to determine if your relationship should be considering a premarital agreement or not. The information below is a good place to start.

Six Premarital Agreement Triggers - Situations for which a prenup should be given extra consideration

  1. If you or your partner have children from a previous relationship. In many states if you or your partner pass away without having made prior arrangements, the state will automatically assign 1/3-1/2 of the estate to the surviving spouse.
  2. If you or your partner are involved with a family business or other closely held business partnership. If your relationship fails it has the potential to adversely impact others outside the relationship. Your personal affairs mixed with the financial interests of others will bring no one happiness.
  3. If you or your partner have a significant amount of debt. Some debt cannot be discharged (student loans) and can follow you for the remainder of your life.
  4. If you or your partner have a particularly lucrative career, valuable creations, or significant assets. Examples might include being a renowned specialist in a highly competitive field, holding patents or copyrights that have commercial value, or there are substantial savings/investments/inheritence.
  5. If you or your partner are giving up a career for the relationship or supporting the other through college or additional training. It's important that sacrifices or support is recognized.
  6. If you or your partner are uncomfortable with the idea of the government making personal decisions for you if your relationship fails. Not all couples can part on good terms and often the courts are needed to settle things.

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Financial Planning Prior to Marriage

Instead of "Playing Doctor" you need to be "Playing Banker"

While not every relationship will have circumstances in which a prenuptial agreement should be considered, every relationship should engage in financial planning prior to marriage. The process of determining whether or not your relationship needs a prenuptial is an excellent starting point that you can then build upon.

Financial planning starts with you and your partner being open and honest about matters that are still considered intimate and private. You're going to have to get naked, expose your credit score, show off your assets, and find out how little is left to cover your debts. Call this game "Playing Banker," but the terms are harder than the similar childhood game you might have played- this time it's "You will show me yours and I will show you mine."

It really does pay to have your financial affairs in order right from the start. Money matters are a leading source of relationship conflict and are directly related to relationship failure. That's a complete shame, as financial issues don't have to be a difficult discussion. In fact, they can be one of the more easily addressed topics in a relationship. The tools needed to deal with finances are readily available. While this lens is a good starting point, check out the other lenses and resources available here to continue your education. Playing "banker" before you start your relationship might very well have you and your partner playing "doctor" for the rest of your lives.

Love vs Money - Makeout or Litigation

What do you think about prenuptial agreements?

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