The other night, I took my daughter and her nanny, Charlie, out to dinner. Charlie is 22, a star athlete in high school and college who spent a summer modeling in Milan and London. We were celebrating her official letter confirming her full ride to graduate school this fall. Needless to say, the world is Charlie’s oyster. She is a rocket of success just kicking off. She’s also a sweet, young, starry-eyed girl looking for love. At dinner, we had fun envisioning her future. When would she meet her future husband? What age would she marry? When would she have her first child? I learned that Charlie doesn’t plan to marry until she’s pretty grounded in her professional career, and not until she’s at least 30 years old. She’s a smart girl who will be a bold bride. And, she knows bold brides get a prenup.
Sure, suggesting a prenup may seem like an utter buzzkill, but there really are some fringe benefits that are worth every bride’s consideration.
Face it – when you get married you are changing the legal status of your relationship. When you marry, legal rights and responsibilities are immediately bestowed on you. Your prenup will be your first joint legal document. The prenup will set forth your individualized agreements that will serve you both in building your mutual dream. What’s sweet is that you’ll make these agreements when you are happily in love, energized and ready to take on all of the curveballs life may throw your way. Most likely, you’ve already made lots of agreement to one another, so reducing those agreements to writing is a fairly natural step. If you don’t take this step and your marriage does unfortunately end up in divorce, then all the personalized promises, agreements, and commitments you made to one another will be rendered void. Instead, cookie-cutter state laws will trump. Think of it as the difference between choosing to divide your assets yourself and letting a judge decide.
While initiating the conversation may seem like a downer, the biggest benefit of a prenup is that with a good lawyer you – as a couple – will be supported in tackling the unexpressed expectations that you may each have about marriage. Often, these unexplored expectations are rooted pretty deep. It makes sense to uncover them and talk about it before you tie the knot. Research suggests that long after the wedding day, the common culprits of healthy marital communication become – intimacy, money, family, and housework. These are all topics that can be addressed in a prenup.
Here’s how negotiating a prenup fast-tracks your relationship to enhance your communication right now, about topics that often cause married couples strife, later. First, you will both have to disclose your assets, debts, and your sources of income. Then, you’ll get to decide how you will and you will not combine your assets. Will you make joint investments together? Will you preserve some as your separate investments? Next, you’ll decide how you would want your assets to be divided if you divorced or when one of you dies. Some couples include a “sunset clause” in their prenuptial agreements which eradicates the terms of the agreement if certain events occur, such as the birth of a child or if the couple stays married for a prescribed number of years. Some prenuptial agreements include provisions about infidelity, substance abuse, and child-rearing duties. (Think Nicole Kidman paying Keith Urban to stay clean and sober.) The possibilities are endless.
The reality is that modern life doesn’t always leave a lot of room for unplugging. Often, married couples both work outside the home. And, more and more jobs require regular travel. Add kids to the mix and you’ve got more personalities and schedules to sort out. In some ways, modern marriage necessitates a higher aptitude for communication, goal setting, and problem solving than ever before.
So, why do bold brides get a prenup? Because it’s the first opportunity for you and you future spouse to get to the heart of your respective fears, your values, and your goals.