Monday, October 15, 2007

Prenuptial Agreements

As couples start discussing marriage, prenuptial agreements are sometimes considered for various reasons. There can be a lot of value to be gained by using a prenuptial agreement, but it can also damage relationships if not approached in a sensitive manner. In the February 5, 2006 issue of the Chicago Tribune, Janet Kidd Stewart wrote about prenuptial agreements being used for older couples who get married.

There are a number of concerns that may surface when older couples are thinking about getting married:
  • inheritances
  • family peace
  • creating joint wealth from shared efforts after marriage
  • providing for health care
  • estate planning
  • debts, including medical bills.

Dealing with those issues can be very complicated because of other family members who may become involved. Older couples often have adult children and grandchildren who may become possessive and territorial about the parent's assets. This can lead to conflict and hard feelings between the children and their parent's new spouse, and sometimes between parent and child. Some adult children sincerely believe they need to protect their parent's property so it can benefit the parent, and perhaps rightfully so. Some older couples end up not marrying because of their (or their children's) fears about the financial side of the marriage.

Another option is to work out a prenuptial agreement by using Collaborative law. This is an appropriate use and natural fit because:

  • it requires each party to have their own attorney,
  • it's based on the goals and needs of the parties,
  • it provides for complete disclosure of finances,
  • a financial planner often works with the parties to provide expert tax and planning help, and
  • the parties work together to reach mutual agreements without one party coercing the other.

One of the greatest benefits is that Collaborative Law forces both parties to articulate their goals and needs and to think in concrete terms about how they want their future to look. The prospective spouses can consider how to manage their investments, life insurance, and health insurance, as well as planning for long-term care for later in life. Using creativity to help them achieve their personal and family goals, couples can resolve financial issues early, keep the peace in their families and establish a firm foundation for personal and family financial security.

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