Hopefully, in everyone’s life, they find that perfect someone that they are meant to be with. She, who is the other half of your soul. The man that really gets you is your best friend and your lover. You have found the answer to the question of your future, and you want to make it official. While we are all certain that life after the wedding is assured, none of us can see into the future as to what will be. Human beings grow and change, sometimes at different rates, and sometimes down different paths. So, before we enter into what is necessarily a legal agreement between two parties based on a set of circumstances that are bound to change, wouldn’t it be the smart thing to do to first sit down with an expert or two and discuss, in writing, what the expectations you BOTH have for this life you plan together? Heaven forbid the unthinkable happens, and you can no longer envision a future which includes the person you currently swear to love, honor and cherish until death, what happens after the marriage? Consult any legal expert, regardless of income or assets, and they will advise you to negotiate a prenuptial agreement that benefits BOTH parties in case things just don’t work out.
Prenuptial agreements are no longer a tool used by the wealthier spouse to ensure they aren’t being “taken advantage” of. Even for couples who start with nothing, the potential earnings and community property laws in California would behoove engaged couples of any tax bracket to discuss the future should the marriage be unsuccessful. In California, the dissolution of a marriage and the allocation of property is governed by the California Family Code. For those who are wise enough to consider a prenuptial agreement, a measure of control is kept between spouses as opposed to the State, over which you have no say. Because of this, it's wise that each party to hire a legal expert to represent them so that the final draft of the prenuptial agreement protects the interest of both parties.
Despite the clinical reputation of this sort of contract, sitting down with your future spouse to REALLY talk about your future should not be the romance killer its often made out to be by those stereotypical “fortune hunter” characters often depicted in movies (although they do exist). Having a frank and honest discussion about what you expect from marriage, what all your deal breakers are, and can ultimately be a way to strengthen your foundation. For one thing, the process requires full disclosure of all assets, debts, and financial situations and should involve discussion on how you will both handle your money and economic future. Money can be a significant stressor on a marriage, and better to find out your coping skills beforehand as well as develop a plan to deal with anything that may come up! Similarly, given the emotional and physical blissed-out state that many engaged couples exude, sitting with the lawyers to discuss what your ideas about children, child rearing, allocation of household chores, and even sexual responsibilities should entail can be quite eye-opening! After hashing out all these minute details, you will surely know your future spouse more thoroughly, and be able to make a more informed decision about your future without all those pesky pheromones clouding your judgment.
An argument can be made that having a substantial prenuptial agreement is similar to having flood insurance on your house. We all hope the flood never comes, but if it does, it pays to be covered. As the famous financial advisor Suze Orman shares, “As somebody who, in my second marriage, insisted on a prenuptial agreement, I can also testify that sometimes it is an act of love to chart the exit strategy before you enter the union, in order to make sure that not only you but your partner as well, knows that there will be no World War III should hearts and minds, for any sad reason, change.”
Just turn on the tv or internet broadcasts right now, and you can hardly escape the news that Jeff Bezos and his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie Bezos are getting divorced. Mr. Bezos is the genius behind Amazon and according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index the wealthiest person on the planet, with a net worth of about $136 billion! However, because Jeff and MacKenzie reportedly don’t have a prenuptial agreement, this number could significantly decrease. Remember, Washington like California, is a community property state, meaning all assets could be split right down the middle when the couple finalizes their divorce.
As to whether you should hire an attorney or attorneys to handle your prenups, take a lesson from Steven Spielberg. Mr. Spielberg and his first wife, Amy Irving signed a prenup on the back of a napkin, and a judge agreed to award Ms. Irving $100 million because he decided that the “document” was invalid since she was not represented by an attorney.
While the motivation to enter into a prenuptial agreement is undoubtedly financially practical, the other benefits are of equal importance when we advise negotiating one. Ultimately, the affianced will have a greater understanding of communication and compromise, while establishing those financial practices that can put marriage at risk. In the end, knowing that a marriage will not end with acrimonious months or even years in court can relieve some of the stresses of the unknown, and encourage a more significant effort to make that marriage work.
If you are ready to tie the knot, you need to seriously consider the advantages of getting a prenuptial agreement. If you are already married and feel like you need to protect yourself and the assets that you brought into the marriage with a post-nuptial agreement, contact the Law Offices of Tracy Duell-Cazes, TDC Family Law, and schedule a free consultation. 408-267-4848.