Every couple will follow a slightly different process when it comes time to combine the key aspects of their lives. For some individuals, a “what’s mine is yours” mentality seems the way to go. But for others, it’s important to protect the assets they already have should the worst-case scenario play out down the road.
You might already be familiar with the concept of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. However, these important legal documents tend to get a bit of a bad rap. Ultimately, they can protect both parties in a variety of scenarios. Let’s take a closer look at some of the similarities and differences between these two types of legal records and why you might want to consider them in certain circumstances.
How Are Prenups and Postnups Alike?
Prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements are both legal papers that are signed by two people involved in a serious romantic partnership. Both of these documents outline how assets will be divided in the event that their partnership ends — either by divorce or by death. Neither prenups nor postnups can address plans for the couple’s children (either theoretical or existing) or other unenforceable clauses. But while some of the same issues can be outlined in both of these documents, they are not interchangeable.
How Do Prenuptial Agreements and Postnuptial Agreements Differ?
One of the main differences between prenups and postnups is when these agreements are signed. As their names suggest, prenups are signed before the couple enters into marriage. Postnups, on the other hand, are signed at some point after the couple has exchanged their vows. In some cases, postnups are brought into the equation if no prenup exists or if the existing prenup needs to be amended. One thing to note is that, while postnuptial agreements are becoming more popular, they may not be as effective in the absence of a prenup; because many assets automatically become marital property after the wedding takes place, it may not provide the same amount of protection as an initial prenuptial agreement.
Why Might You Want a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement?
Although roughly 40% to 50% of American couples divorce, that doesn’t mean that half of all married or soon-to-be-married couples should consider getting a prenup or signing a postnup agreement. Generally speaking, young couples with no significant assets (and no possibility of substantial inheritance) probably don’t need to have a prenup in place if it’s their first marriage. However, if one or both parties are entering into a marriage with a large estate or considerable assets, it’s a good idea to sign a prenuptial agreement. That may also be true for those who are getting married for the second (or third or fourth) time, as prenups can often avoid a lengthy battle in court should divorce or death lead to the dissolution of the marriage.
Postnuptial agreements may be appropriate for couples who neglected to sign a prenup but who want to legally spell out the division of their assets as a precautionary measure. Couples who also experience some sort of significant change during the course of their marriage — such as the receipt of a large inheritance — may want to use a postnup to protect their assets. Postnups can also be used for couples who are going through a rough time in their marriage but who are still trying to make the partnership work.
Deciding whether to enter into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is a deeply personal decision. However, most lawyers would agree that these legal documents are recommended when meaningful assets are at stake. While it might not be the most romantic discussion you’ll ever have with your long-term partner, it may be well worth it to enter into such an agreement. For additional information or legal assistance on this type of documentation, please contact our firm today.