There are a number of situations in which you might want a prenuptial agreement, but not everybody getting married needs a prenup.
Essentially, a prenup is a contract between future spouses. The goal of any prenup is to clarify rights and responsibilities when the marriage ends, whether by divorce or by the death of one spouse.
Let’s take divorce first. You might want a prenup if you have assets or an ongoing business interest from before the marriage. Similarly, you might want a prenup if you are going to inherit wealth or part of an ongoing family business. You might want a prenup if you have an established career and want to keep it separate and protected. In all these situations a prenup can give you extra protection against the consequences of divorce.
A prenup can spell out what assets will be divided, when and how. It can even address alimony, either by waivers, or by setting up a fair and predictable amount.
A prenup can also improve the whole divorce process by making it faster and more predictable. It can provide a level of privacy that is impossible in the courts. And it can substantially reduce the attorney fees involved in a divorce.
In the right situation, a prenuptial agreement offers significant benefits and protections if the marriage ends in divorce. And we all know that a large percentage of marriages do end in divorce, for many reasons, including some that are nobody’s fault.
A prenuptial agreement can also improve upon the law where the marriage ends from the death of a spouse. Again, the law provides some protections, just not for all situations.
For example, you might want a prenup if you have children from a previous relationship. In this situation, you may want to provide for the children in a way different from what the law otherwise allows.
You might also want a prenup if you have, or might inherit, an active interest in a family business. Without a prenup, if you die, your surviving spouse could inherit and become an active member in your family’s business. That could create all kinds of unwanted conflict. Your spouse might have different business ideas or experience from your other family members. Or your spouse could remarry and then die, leaving part of your family business in the hands of a stranger. A properly drafted prenup can protect your family’s business in this situation while still providing for your surviving spouse.
A prenuptial agreement offers real benefits in some situations, such as where one or more of the future spouses has pre-existing wealth or children, or has a present or future interest in a family business. If you are in one of these situations, you should consult an attorney about the benefits of a prenup as early as possible.