Do I Need A Prenup? A Relationship Coach's Guide to Understanding Prenuptial Agreements

Many people think that once you reach the decision to get married to your partner, that the hard part is over. After all, wrapping your head around the whole idea of ‘til death do us part’ should be one of the biggest decisions in your life, right? And while this is true, there are actually a ton of decisions that you have to make AFTER deciding to tie the knot. Every couple who has ever decided to get married has had to deal with a slew of choices: whether to have a ceremony or go to town hall, where to get married, to elope or host a large reception, to serve cake or have a first dance, to get married in the church or the great outdoors, and naturally, whether or not to invite that weird Great-Aunt who will bring an unwrapped dreamcatcher in lieu of a gift. Those are all very personal decisions unique to the couple themselves, and can be decided upon for deeply private and personal reasons. A lot of people have been planning their ideal wedding for as long as they can remember (aka have a ‘future wedding’ board on Pinterest and a good idea of what the color scheme will be), so they will have pretty strong opinions on how the ceremony goes down. Others are more willing to compromise. And others have to deal with parents and family member’s whose strong opinions outshine their own.

Wedding planning is often cracked up to be pretty difficult, though ultimately super worth it (!!) because of all of the decisions that you and your fiancé have to make together. In addition to discussions about menu, flower arrangements and the guest list, is the decision of whether or not to have a prenuptial agreement. Prenuptial agreements are becoming more and more commonplace for couples these days as couples try to financially plan for the future. If you aren’t currently considering a prenup, you should add this to your list of pre-wedding to-dos. Even if you decide against a prenuptial agreement, it’s a good discussion to have before doing the damn thing.

What Is A Prenup?

A prenup (short for prenuptial agreement) is a written agreement a couple creates that dictates what would happen in the event of death or divorce. The agreed-upon prenup would override typical martial laws that govern division of assets, property, savings and retirement benefits. Like a marriage, a prenup is a legally-binding agreement. If you’ve heard of a prenup, you have probably heard of it in the context of super wealthy couples with significant assets. A lot of celebrity couples, or other people with wealth choose to get prenups so that their individual assets don’t get grouped together even though they are in a marital union. Although empirically, it was assumed that the only people who exercised their right to prenuptial agreements have been the wealthy and famous, couples of all kinds of financial backgrounds have chosen to structure their union with the additional support of a prenup.

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Why Get One?

Couples make this (deeply personal) decision to get a prenup based on a number of factors. Many couples don’t understand the full extent of what a prenup can offer, and therefore feel intimidated and forgo this option. Whether or not you choose to execute a prenup, you should never forgo the option due to a lack of knowledge or familiarity with the details. In the interest of learning, there are many reasons couples decide to enter into prenups (and none of the reasons are because they’re wealthy and famous). Some of those factors could include:

  • Protecting family wealth or family business
  • Trust funds or other inheritance
  • Previous divorce settlements
  • Protecting each other from previous debt
  • Keeping family assets and heirlooms within the family
  • Protecting the inheritance for children from a previous marriage

While we often think about marriage as just the union of two people, this could not be farther from the truth. Marriage brings together two families, past relationships and children new and old, which can make it necessary to set up a prenup before tying the knot. While no one wants to think about divorcing their partner before they are even married, it’s important to remember that circumstances, people and compatibility can all change over time. While a lot of couples are able to work through these changes and other marriage difficulties, a lot of other couples are not. We’ve all heard the marriage statistic that over 51% of marriages end in divorce, so while it’s rather morbid to think about the death of your marriage before it has even been born, it is frankly the practical and prudent choice.

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Pros & Cons Of A Prenup

If you’re determining whether or not to present your partner with a prenuptial agreement in advance of your wedding, or if you are still working out whether you yourself want a prenup, it’s a big decision that deserves some real consideration. This is not as simple as whether to serve chicken or fish to your wedding guests, and is an issue that cannot be solved with the aid of a Pinterest board (unlike just about every other marital problem!). So, we’ve decided to help you with some of the leg work. When considering the benefits and pitfalls of a prenup and what kind of effect (if any) it could have on the future of your marriage, these are a few of the factors to consider:

Pros

  • Additional examination and analysis of financial matters
  • Preserves family ties and protects inheritance and lineage
  • Children from previous marriages are protected financially
  • Personal and business assets accrued before marriage are protected
  • Airs out all the “skeletons in the closet” and puts everything on the table
  • Eliminates the battles over finances in the event of divorce

Cons

  • Can set the precedent of ‘planning for divorce’
  • Can cause serious friction between partners
  • Give the impression there is a lack of trust
  • Not what most people consider a “romantic” gesture
  • Can create resentment (from partner who was served with it to partner who requested it)
  • Prenups can be nullified if all assets or financials aren’t properly disclosed
  • Partner could choose not to sign, delaying the wedding

While prenups are often ‘served’ from one partner to another, this is not the only course of action. Prenups are becoming less and less taboo, which means that you and your partner should feel comfortable broaching the topic of prenups as a partnership, rather than a one-sided decision. Talking about money is almost always uncomfortable, especially if you tend to avoid the subject at all cost. But like it or not, it is in your best interest as a couple to work past any discomfort you have about discussing finances and be totally transparent about your wants and needs for your assets. Talking about how to protect assets, or inheritance or children from past relationships can help you both come to the conclusion that a prenup is necessary. Even if your partner doesn’t love the idea of a prenup, if you talk about it as a team, they will at least understand your thinking.

While some people claim that prenups take the romance out of a marriage by ‘planning for divorce’, you could actually spin it as just the opposite. In a way, prenups can actually be seen as a pretty romantic gesture. By taking assets, inheritance and wealth out of the picture, you and your partner are proving to one another that you are not marrying for material gain, and are instead marrying solely for love and companionship. And, really, what’s more romantic than that? Another common gripe against prenups is that they demonstrate greed or vanity and an unwillingness to share with a new partner. But, a lot of the time, prenups have to do with protecting children from past marriages, or family lineages that have been preserved over generations. If your future partner is choosing to protect their family lineage and their past marriages (or at least children from those past marriages), it shows that if, worst case scenario, things do end in divorce, your partner will likely grant the same protective privileges to your children if you chose to have them. Even if you don’t have children to protect, prenups are often the respectable thing to do, and show a degree of maturity and planning the future, which are definitely qualities that you want in any partner.

As many stigmas are being shed around weddings and marriage, the next generation is shedding the one around prenups. Prenups have always been shrouded in confusion and misunderstanding, but that is changing in the age of information. In addition to being the age of information, this is also well-known as the digital age, and we’re turning to digital devices for help with every part of the financial spectrum. From investing, to budgeting, to paying off debt, more of us are turning to our phones for financial guidance (as well as Candy Crush, of course).

Millennials are signing up for financial tools and apps like Mint, Wally, Acorns, and Tycoon at staggering rates. And while prenup services are not the primary tools offered by these apps, many millennials view a prenuptial agreement as an extension of these tools. Lawyers agree with these new trends and urge young couples to think of prenups as a financial planner, just another way of mapping your economic strategy over the course of your union. (Yes, not as romantic as a hotel room covered in rose petals, but a good marriage is all about balance, right?).

Modern and millennial couples are causing a huge spike in the number of prenuptial agreements in recent years - and for a myriad of reasons. One of which is that they are delaying marriage, almost across the board. Since 2005, the median age at which both men and women married has jumped from 27 to 29.9 and 25.5 to 28.1 respectively, according to the US Census. People aren’t getting married right out of high school or college any more (well most people), which means that there are many years of earning and saving before marriage. This huge delay in marriage is largely attributed to the need for more higher education that delays earning years, and the demands of the modern workplace. This statistic tracks with the increase in prenups, as many young couples have already accrued more personal and business assets. Think about the amount of money you can accrue/save over the course of three years. By the time millennials wed they are more interested in protecting these assets because they have worked super hard to earn them. Another reason more couples are opting in to prenups is that they themselves are the product of divorce. The majority of millennials have been directly impacted by divorce, whether it was a parent’s divorce, a grandparent’s divorce or a close friend’s family divorce (which at a young age can be very impactful) we have all seen the aftermath up close and personal. Children of divorce, understandably, have certain reservations about marriage, and are predisposed to protect themselves in the event of a dissolution.

In this day and age, certain taboos are meant to be toppled. Couples are getting married later, spending less on their wedding day compared to the more ‘traditional’ celebrations of decades past, and more and more of them are opting into prenuptial arrangements. Some things about love and weddings are meant to be timeless: something borrowed, something blue, for example.

Other things are meant to be improved upon and changed. Younger couples are ripping up the old playbooks and asking themselves how they want to start the rest of their life with someone, and that is a sentiment all of us can get behind! Although your Great-Aunt with the dreamcatcher might have some choice words about your, ahem, choices, times are changing! That means that you and your partner get to design exactly the wedding - and the marriage - that you want, prenups and all.

Ready to have the prenup talk with your partner? Learn how to navigate difficult conversations with a free 7-day trial of our award-winning relationship coaching app. Install now.


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