If you are busy planning your wedding, be sure to add a meeting with a lawyer onto your list. It's easy to overlook how marriage is not just a relationship, but a legal action. If you and your soon-to-be spouse can agree upon some important financial stipulations before your big day, you can help pave the way for a smoother future. Here is what you should include in your agreement and what should be left out.
What to include in the prenuptial agreement.
Because the concept of prenuptial agreements are fairly new to the legal world, there are very few restrictions and guidelines to follow. This means that you and your fiance are free to customize your own agreement that includes the issues that matter most to you two. It should be noted that, while there are very few rules about prenuptial agreements in general, you should stick to strictly financial issues when creating your agreement. Most legal advisers suggest including provisions for the following financially-related issues:
Property: Anything that is already owned by one party prior to the wedding date should be specifically listed and addressed in the agreement. Anything from a home to vehicles should be listed. While normally property owned prior to marriage belongs to that person regardless of marriage, the sticky issue of co-mingling could cause problems in the future if you fail to address who owns what at the moment of marriage. In other words, the value of the item before it is co-mingled could help address any later problems with marital property divisions.
Debt: Just like property, debt normally belongs to the owner of that debt prior to marriage, but you can also co-mingle debts. For example, a home mortgage may be re-financed to include your spouse's name, which makes it now a joint debt. The amount of all debts at the time of the marriage should be noted.
Bills: Deciding budgeting issues ahead of time means that you begin your new relationship on clear financial grounds. For example, who will pay the rent and will it be evenly divided or based on income earned?
Savings: How various types of savings plans, such as education, retirement, etc will be funded.
Financial arrangements for children of previous relationships: Making a will is important, but you can help ensure that your wishes regarding your children are addressed in your prenuptial agreement as well. If an issue arises after your death, the prenuptial agreement provisions could be used in court if a bequeath is challenged.
What to leave out of your prenuptial agreement.
Family court issues: If it has to do with minor children and divorce, leave it out of your prenuptial agreement. Child custody, visitation and child support should be left to the family court system to decide at the time of your parting. Including those provisions are a waste of time, since state divorce law will supersede them.
Spousal support (alimony): This is a popular issue for prenuptial agreements, but not all states consider provisions for it addressed in that manner. Be sure to check with your attorney beforehand.
Non-financial issues: What you will name your children, what school they will attend, where you will live, who has to do what household chores; none of these are financially-related and should be left off. For assistance, talk to a professional like Campbell, Dille, Barnett & Smith, P.L.L.C.