What is a Prenup? How to Decide if You Need One

Marriage - April 20, 2023
Happy couple engaged to be married talking to a prenup lawyer

If you are considering marriage, you have probably heard about a prenup by now. Perhaps you are trying to decide if it is a good choice for you and your future partner.

This means you have questions:

  • What is a prenup?
  • What does it do?
  • How do you get a prenup?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Do you even need one in the first place?

The term is short for “prenuptial agreement.” It can also be called a premarital agreement. If you forget to sign one with your partner before marriage, another kind of contract exists that you can both sign after you’ve tied the knot: a postnuptial agreement.

Whether you decide on a prenup, a postnuptial agreement, or no kind of agreement at all, we want to make sure you are informed about your options as you and your partner prepare to start life as a married couple.

Infographic: Prenuptial Misconceptions: There are many misconceptions around prenuptial agreements including factors like time and money. Other Prenupstioal Misconceptions: 36% I don't make enough monety; 44% We don't have the time; 53% We don't have the money. Don't be that couple...18% We wish we had one; 25% We'd rather not. Let LegalShield help you feel empowered to have these conversation with your partner.

What is a prenup?

Individuals planning to marry each other sign this contract together. The contract explains the rules that the individuals have agreed upon if their marriage ends. This is usually in the event of divorce, but in some cases, this arrangement can work in the event of a spouse’s death.

What does a prenup do?

This agreement establishes which property each party will receive and the responsibilities that they will have to each other, however the marriage may end.

Why do you need a prenup?

You may be wondering, “Do I need a prenup?” Nobody wants to assume that their marriage will need a backup plan. But if you look at the stats, close to half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. The reasons for divorce vary drastically, but the result is the same.

When you begin your marriage with a plan for the future, you give your partner and yourself peace of mind that, no matter what, you are both protected. You are basically telling your partner that you love them enough to plan for any eventuality with their best interest at heart.

Does your marriage qualify for a prenup?

  • Do you ever have arguments with your future spouse? For almost all people, that answer is yes. If you and your partner find yourselves in the middle of a divorce later, you can avoid nasty fights over money and assets.
  • Do you or your future spouse have significant debt, or is it likely that you will incur debts during your marriage? Debt can put a huge strain on your relationship and on any divorce proceedings. Make it easier on yourselves by agreeing about joint debt management beforehand.
  • Do you already have children or plan to have children together? Lay out legal custody provisions for your family in case of divorce.
  • Does one of you plan to be a stay-at-home parent? Stay-at-home parents may run into issues during a divorce, due to differences in income and responsibilities. With a prenup, this parent can protect their assets and finances more easily.
  • Do you have pets that you plan to bring with you into the marriage? Though it may sound petty (no pun intended), spouses who are going through a divorce tend to have heated arguments about who gets to take the pets. Decide which pets will go with which party in any eventuality.

What should you include in a prenup?

Now that you have asked a few questions about your future marriage, you may have noticed something. Your marriage, just like any other marriage, is not fail-proof. You can hope for the best, but preparing for the worst is the responsible and loving thing to do with your soon-to-be spouse. Now for the next step: What should this important contract say?

The rules and responsibilities that go into a marriage are almost endless. However, a few basic conditions usually apply to the majority of prenups:

  • Agree upon the marital property and physical assets that each party will receive at the end of the marriage.
  • Make provisions for your children, especially if your children come from previous relationships.
  • Decide on important issues such as child support and custody, including parenting time if you opt for only one custodial parent.
  • Explain the financial responsibilities each party will have, such as retirement contributions, household expenses, etc.
  • Agree on the division of your marital debt, such as a car loan, whether those debts were acquired individually or together.
  • Establish the amount of spousal support or alimony that will be expected after the end of the marriage.
  • Decide upon the division of business earnings if one or all parties owns a business or businesses.

Man and woman discussing a prenuptial agreement

How much does a prenup cost?

The cost of the preparation process varies dramatically depending on your location and the details of your divorce. Some cost $2,000. Others can cost $10,000 or more.

Perhaps this is a more appropriate question to ask: How much money do you and your future spouse already have? If you have enough money that you are concerned about what would happen to it in a divorce, it is worth the time and effort to create a prenuptial agreement together.

What is the difference between a prenup and a postnuptial agreement?

Maybe you and your future spouse choose not to sign a prenup before marriage. But what if your circumstances change after the “I dos”, and you wish you had some protections in place? Can you get a prenup after marriage?

Not exactly, but you still have the option of signing a postnuptial agreement. This is basically the same kind of paperwork as a prenup, but it is drawn up after you’ve been married.

What are some reasons why you might need a postnuptial agreement?

You don’t have to be on the brink of divorce to sign a postnuptial agreement with your spouse. If your marriage goes through some of these common life changes, you might consider a post-nup:

  • You and/or your spouse >begin a business.
  • One of you decides to become a stay-at-home parent.
  • One of you receives an inheritance.
  • One or both of you goes into debt.

An important note is that postnuptial agreements do not deal with child custody or child support. You also cannot use a post-nup to enforce routine responsibilities of each spouse. So, if you and your partner are arguing constantly about who has to wash the dishes, you can’t use a post-nup to hammer out those details.

Do you need a prenup lawyer?

Prenups and post-nups are important pieces of paperwork! You may want to look on the bright side and assume that you and your future spouse will never need one. But you and your partner are very different people. That’s why you love them!

That also means that you will probably run into big differences with each other. Having an agreement in place can protect your peace of mind and ensure that the needs of all involved parties are met. And that means that your contract needs to be precise and legally accurate.

As you begin your marriage together, plan to invest in a lawyer to help with your legal needs. Since each state in the U.S. has varying rules for prenuptial agreements, it’s best to ask a local lawyer for help. Some states may even require you both to have a lawyer who will look over your paperwork. And of course, if you do have to take your partner to court someday, you will be glad you have a lawyer who has helped you with each step of the process.

Want the legal help you need at a cost you can afford?

If you decide to create a prenup with your partner, look no further than LegalShield. We give you access to a dedicated provider law firm in your area – at a fraction of the hourly rates other lawyers charge. Your provider firm will provide the experience you need to secure the best possible outcome for your marriage.

  • Assistance with preparing and signing a prenuptial agreement
  • Review for your legal paperwork
  • Consultation for any legal questions you have
  • Representation for uncontested divorces, separations, and annulments
  • Assistance with child custody cases, custody disputes, visitation issues, and parental rights issues

If you are looking for more reasons to get a prenup, read about seven reasons why you might need one. Sign up for a personal prepaid plan to create and sign your important paperwork today.

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