Premarital Agreements–What You Need To Consider When You Develop Yours

If you and your significant other are thinking about tying the knot, you're probably in a pretty happy frame of mind. One of the last things you want to think about during this time is what could happen if your marriage doesn't work out. Also, unless you have a significant bank account or some highly valuable assets to protect, it's likely that you wouldn't think about protecting yourself from divorce in a legal sense.

Unfortunately, this is a major mistake. Statistics show that 44 percent of single people--and 49 percent of married folks--think that premarital agreements are a good idea. Furthermore, 15 percent of divorced people regretted not having an agreement in place. That means you should seriously consider developing a premarital agreement before you finalize your marriage, even if you aren't particularly wealthy.

Knowing why premarital agreements are so valuable requires understanding some of the legal issues that marriage can create. Here are some of the most important ideas to understand and consider when determining your own needs.

Do You Have Heirlooms Or Specific Inheritance Needs?

Many people have inherited a prized possession that's been in the family for a long time. Since these items are often well-maintained antiques, they often carry a significant amount of financial value on top of their sentimental meaning. This can create legal problems in the event of a divorce when it comes time to divide your financial assets.

Also, for many people, their marriage isn't their first one. There might be children from other marriages that are entitled to inheritance funds or other endowments. It's often difficult to ensure that these financial affairs end up in the proper place if divorce becomes a reality.

Premarital agreements can clean all of this up in advance. If you set the terms for how these heirlooms and inheritances should be handled in the event of a divorce, you won't have to leave these affairs to chance. You can rest easy knowing that all of your plans are in order, regardless of your marital status.

Are You Both Employed?

It's extremely common for both members of a couple to have an income prior to their marriage. In fact, experts estimate that 66% of all married households in the United States are dual-income households. This means that both parties often have adequate means of individual support.

However, when families grow, it's also common for one member of the couple to defer their career for the sake of maintaining the home for children. In the event of a divorce, that person suffers from a reduced ability to support themselves due to time removed from the workplace. To account for this, spousal maintenance is often paid from the higher earning person to the other. 

Premarital agreements can make this process much smoother. While you won't be able to account for all future circumstances--and not everything can be agreed upon in advance--a common understanding of what life after divorce means for each of the couple's financial status makes planning and the division of finances easier for everyone.

Do Either Of You Have Serious Debts?

One of the most important, yet overlooked, reason for a premarital agreement is debt. With student loans and the housing market in their current state, it's not uncommon for people to enter into a marriage with significant levels of debt. Often, paying down these debts becomes a team affair after marriage.

Divorce, depending on a number of circumstances, could result in the other party assuming a lot of that individual debt. If you have a lot of personal debt, a premarital agreement can protect your partner from that fate. Similarly, if your significant other has debts, you may want that level of protection for yourself.

Hopefully, your marriage will never require the use of a premarital agreement. In the event that it does, however, you'll be glad that you have one. While legal advice isn't usually the first item on a person's marriage checklist, an attorney can help you understand the importance of premarital agreements in your unique situation.

For more information, talk with a family law attorney or visit websites like