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Who needs a prenuptial agreement?

For most couples, talking about love comes easy. Money is the hard thing topic. When couples consider a prenuptial agreement, this can be a real barrier. The more assets that are involved, the more complicated and analytical the discussions will be. Prenups already force a couple to consider the uncomfortable hypothetical of a break-up, which is the opposite of the romantic weddings they are often planning.

The process is trying, but ultimately worthwhile, explains writer Abby Mims in a New York Times essay about her own experience. Discussing finances and making comparisons between partners is a challenge, but it ultimately creates a strong foundation for the marriage to build on.

Why a prenup?

Prenuptial agreements, at their core, define the ownership of different property before, during and after a marriage.

A prenup might not be necessary for a young couple, fresh out of college, but when complex assets are involved, clear definitions are needed to determine ownership shares. Money Talk News breaks down six major scenarios where a prenup is beneficial. Broadly speaking, it's most important when the two partners have a notable disparity between income or assets.

  • People with money - The agreement ensures that individually owned money doesn't become shared money. Celebrity marriages are an oft-cited example.
  • People who might inherit - A prenup defines ownership clearly, which eliminates later conflict over heirlooms and valuable estates with sentimental value.
  • People with debt - Marriage means shared finances, the good and the bad. If a partner has significant debt, a prenup prevents the other from responsibility after a divorce.
  • Business owners - Business ownership is complicated in its own right. Unless specified elsewhere, one partner's business belongs to both partners through marriage. After divorce, ex-spouses rarely want to do business together, which can put a business in an awkward position.
  • When income is likely to rise significantly - Marriage is a long-term commitment and lives change over that time. If one partner is in a lucrative field that will earn more than the other spouse, this protects the higher earner from a financial hit upon divorce.
  • Anyone with children outside of their current relationship - A prenuptial agreement isn't just about protecting assets. It can also define the next in line for an asset if something happens. Often, children from a previous relationship are at the whim of a current spouse.

Not just about personal protection

Prenuptial agreements are thought of as "what's in it for me" documents but, in truth, they provide complex protection for descendents, business partners and others. The division of property is about far more than equal financial value for each partner. There are nuances to all kinds of property that require specific attention.

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