If you’re engaged to be married, congratulations! But, do you and your spouse-to-be need a premarital agreement?
To help you out here are some things to keep in mind –
1. For some people the very thought of a premarital agreement is unacceptable because it’s too much like predicting their marriage will fail. If that’s you then read no further. A pre-marital agreement won’t work for you and yours because you’re going to have to be willing to talk about what will happen if your marriage fails.
2. However, If you and your betrothed are able to talk about it then leave yourself plenty of time, in advance of the wedding, to get your agreement in place. At a minimum, you should start the process of getting your premarital agreement prepared at least 90 days before the big day – and the earlier you start, the better.
3. There are do-it-yourself premarital agreements available on-line and in business supply houses and, while they are a less expensive alternative to a lawyer-drawn premarital agreement, we think you should avoid them. Why? For the same reason we think you should not perform your own gall bladder operation or fill your own cavity – it’s dangerous for someone who’s not trained to do it.
4. Most family lawyers (attorneys who handle things like divorce, child custody and support, property division, adoptions, etc.) can prepare a premarital agreement for you. Depending on your situation, you may want to consult with a Board Certified family law attorney (a specialist).
5. A premarital agreement can do three things – first, it can identify what property you owned before your marriage so, if the marriage ever ends, it’s easier to show what’s “yours.”
6. Second, a premarital agreement can keep income from your separate property (rent from a house or income from a CD, for example) as your separate property. Without a premarital agreement, income from your separate property becomes community property when you marry. The premarital agreement can even say that your income after marriage will be your separate property not community property.
7. Lastly, a premarital agreement can say there won’t be any spousal alimony in case there is a divorce.
So, premarital agreements can range from the very simple to the very complex and what you may need will depend on many factors – your age, whether this is a first marriage and, if not, whether you have children from a prior marriage or relationship, the size of your estate, the needs and desires of other family members (such as your parent or sibling, if you are in business with them), etc.
If you want to hire a lawyer to prepare a premarital agreement, start early! Get referrals from friends and business associates who have used family lawyers in your area before. Call and check them out and decide who you may want to hire then consult with that attorney. Go into your meeting with information about your estate and some idea of what you’d like the premarital agreement to do for you. Then, ask how much this will cost – the lawyer will be able to give you a pretty good estimate after meeting with you. Many will do it for a fixed fee.
One final word – your betrothed will need a lawyer also – one attorney cannot represent the both of you.
Good luck and, again, to those of you who are engaged and about to embark upon the sea of matrimony, congratulations and smooth sailing!