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Why a Prenup Makes More Sense Than You Might Have Thought

February 25, 2024

Making sure you’re on the same page financially before getting married

We’ve posted before about prenuptial agreements (Brett Jones’s 2-part series in October 2018) but not from the perspective discussed here. Today we’ll look at prenups primarily from a financial perspective. 

Let’s start with the proposition that unmet expectations and finances are among the most common causes for marital conflict. Combine these two and there’s potential for real strife.  However, this potential can be limited by a prenuptial agreement, not merely because the finished prenup contains obligations the spouses have agreed to, but because the process of reaching those agreements can be revelatory. You think you know who you’re marrying, but do you know that person financially?

On the website, Rachel Cruze has posted 12 Questions to Ask Before Marriage, and the first four of them are financial! That’s right —  money management, debt, budgeting and financial goals top the list. For example, suppose you’re expecting that you and your partner will continue your separate banking arrangements after marriage, but your partner assumes the two of you will combine finances. Or suppose your student loan debt is minimal and your partner’s is substantial. You both need to know that, and to agree how the debt will be paid off. Or you want to invest and your partner is more inclined to pay off debt. Does one of you already own a home you are both going to live in?  What will be your respective rights and obligations with regard to the house?  These (and many others) are not easy questions, but talking about them in order to address them in a prenuptial agreement is well worth your time.

For one thing, you may learn aspects of your intended that come as surprises – possibly unpleasant ones – if you wait until you’re married  to discover them. In addition, discussing the prenup gives the two of you a chance to problem solve together. Problem solving skills are essential in marriage, as essential as their solutions, because conflict and resolving it are part of any relationship.

Your prenuptial agreement can address key financial questions in a variety of substantive ways, and it’s not the purpose of this post to prescribe or even suggest what those may be. However, our firm’s experience confirms the usefulness of a prenup from the standpoint of process as much as substance. As the song says, “We are going, heaven knows where we are going, but we’ll get there, we know we will.” 

In negotiating your prenup, the questions of how you each handle money, how much debt you each have, how you’ll make a budget together and what your financial goals are reveal future life partners to each other in ways that are key, but they are not the only questions. You will also want to know about attitudes toward conflict, relationship, personal goals and fears, family, religion, children and parenting. Here again, the process is as valuable as the outcome.

In sum, no one likes surprises, and working out a prenuptial agreement can help you avoid them.  We can also recommend a book for you to read together:  Prenups for Lovers: A Romantic Guide to Prenuptial Agreements, by Arlene Dubin. 

Of course, you can discuss these subjects without the discussions ending in a prenup, but our firm’s experience is that a prenup is an acid test. Negotiating a prenup holds your feet to the fire, so to speak, because you’re not chatting over coffee. Instead, you’re negotiating a real deal – the deal you’ll live by with someone you intend to live with for a long, long time. You’ll be discovering important things about your partner and yourself.

~ Lazar Schwartz & Jones



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