Should You Get a Prenup?

The prenuptial agreement used to come with some serious social baggage. Signing a prenup, in the past, was tantamount to declaring that you expected to divorce. While there is still a reluctance to talk about prenuptial agreements, these arrangements are increasingly viewed as a way to protect your assets in the event of a divorce. Marriage usually means combined finances in many cases, but sometimes it makes sense to protect what’s yours.

Marriage is Changing

Marriage CertificateCouples look different now when compared to their counterparts of a few decades ago. In the past, prenups were used to protect the wealthy from gold diggers. In most cases, though, with men as the primary breadwinners and women staying home, and with partners marrying much younger (before either had amassed much personal wealth), few felt that a prenup was needed.

That’s changing now. Individuals are waiting longer to marry, even leaving second marriages aside. That means that both partners might have assets they want to protect. Dual incomes are more common, and a tendency to separate finances to some degree has increased over the years. This means that there is a greater sense of “yours” and “mine” in addition to “ours.”

Protect Your Assets

It’s important to realize that, depending on the state, your assets (or at least half of them) could be considered the rightful property of your spouse in the event of a divorce. Even if you own something prior to the marriage, your ex might have a claim on it. And, even if your spouse can’t claim the asset itself, he or she might be entitled to a portion of the increase in that asset’s value, whether it’s a home, a business, or an investment account.

A prenuptial agreement states which assets each partner retains ownership of during the marriage. Such an arrangement can define how to figure the value of assets acquired during the marriage should be divided during a divorce. That way, you are more likely to keep what’s yours, rather than having a court decide what’s “fair.”

Do You Need a Prenup?

In some cases, partners who have roughly equal assets and similar incomes at marriage want to ensure that things remain that way, and opt for a prenup. However, there are some cases that might make signing a prenup almost a necessity:

  • Business: If you own a business, or if you are planning on starting a business, it might be wise to protect it with a prenup. Your spouse might be entitled to a portion of the value of the business — especially the value of an appreciation during the marriage.
  • Real estate assets: If you have real estate assets prior to the marriage, a prenup can help you protect their appreciating value. Even if you never put the assets in your spouse’s name, the sale of the real estate to help fund divorce costs might mean that part of your gains can be claimed by your ex.
  • Higher income: Someone with a much higher income than a partner might consider a prenup. Otherwise, everything made during the marriage might be split.
  • Higher net worth: Whether you’ve received a windfall, an inheritance, or there is some other reason that you have a high net worth, it might make sense to protect your money with a prenup.

Make sure you understand the laws in your state before creating a prenup. A knowledgeable attorney, especially one with experience in marriage and family law, can help you craft a prenuptial agreement that protects both parties.

Photo credit: cedarjunction


  1. Brad says

    this is good advice, indeed.
    i would go a step farther and propose that a pre-nup be required before every marriage, no matter each person’s finances.
    i know no one who has ever been happy about their share of assets after a divorce, no matter who gets what.
    so, why not take that issue off the table before it ever arises…with a pre-nup?
    i know this will never happen because a prenup is not deemed ‘romantic.’
    still, the wise would do well to consider it.

  2. says

    I do not agree with pre-nups. Why make divorce even easier and continue to devalue what marriage is supposed to be – commitment – for richer or poorer, better or worse, til death do us part.

  3. says

    I wouldn’t marry someone unless I was willing to share my entire life with them. That’s kinda the whole point. There is no “my stuff” and “her stuff”. It’s “our stuff”.

  4. Dan says

    If you have reason to think you need to sign a pre-nup with your fiance, then maybe you shouldn’t be marrying your fiance in the first place…..

  5. Rob says

    To those saying that getting a pre-nup is like assuming you’re going to get divorced, think about this: I don’t think my house is EVER going to burn down, but you can be damn sure I have fire insurance.

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