You’re engaged! Congratulations!
Planning your wedding is just as exciting as it is busy. Brides naturally get so wrapped up in making sure that every last beautiful wedding detail is in order, that its easy to overlook the less glamorous but far more important part of their wedding plans: the legal aspect like whether or not a Prenup is a good idea. I'm guilty, too- and I'm a lawyer! When I got married in 2001, I didn’t think about the legal or the financial aspect of it either! In the back of my mind, I knew that there were important things we probably should at least be thinking about, but I believed that I was too busy. (I “fixed” that after we got married, but at greater expense, both emotionally and financially.)
Besides an Illinois Marriage License, what else is there?
For some, a marriage license is all they need and is easily obtainable from the county clerk. But most people, if they are smart, will at the very least consider what else they might need to make sure that their marriage is off to the strongest, most stable start possible.
Two Conversations (maybe 3): You owe it to yourself and to your future new family to do everything you can to get things off to a successful start, NOW! Marriage is a blessing but just like the most precious flower, it will require patience and nurturing. Life happens, and you need to be ready for it. After 20 years of talking to people who have, sadly, decided to end their marriage, I can tell you that the main reasons that I see it happen stem from financial issues and/or a failure to communicate (usually about, you guessed it, money).
The First conversation that you need to have is with yourself. Take some time away from the daily routine and go somewhere quiet. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I want to work continuously throughout the marriage, or will I be happier as a homemaker/stay at home mom?
- Does my preference make financial sense, both now and in the future?
- Am I coming into the marriage with debt, and if so, does my fiancé know about it?
- Do I know what kind of debt my fiancé is coming in with?
- If one of us is going to school, what do I believe is the fairest way to pay?
- What kind of a financial arrangement do I want in the marriage? (Accounts..)
- Is there anything going on in either of our lives, financially, that is worrying me? Areas of concern could be:
- Parents who need costly medical or nursing care
- College or Grad School
- Kids from a previous marriage
- Unequal incomes
- Starting a business
- Spousal Support (alimony) to a previous spouse
- Lack of savings
- Credit Card Debt
- What will happen to the home one of us already owns?
The Second Conversation that you need to have is with your fiancé. Don’t be afraid to have an honest conversation. Believe me, its going to happen anyway and its better that you control when and do it as part of a planned, loving conversation. Your fiancé will see it as a sign of maturity and as an indication that you are taking the marriage seriously. You’ll want to get the dialogue going now, before you find yourselves caught up in a way of doing things without having planned it out, which can lead to resentment and fighting. If there is anything at the top of your mind that is worrying you, it’s a thousand times better to talk about it in advance of your marriage, which is good practice for making decisions and plans together. Topics for discussion can include:
- Who will manage the money?
- Will we have a joint bank account or do we also want separate accounts for various expenses?
- Should we buy a home and if so, how and when?
- If one of us owns real estate, what will happen to it and the money invested into it?
- Debt repayment
- How much money will we have as a couple, both starting out and how might that change?
- If I become very sick or disabled, or unable to make my own decisions, what then?
What’s Next? The third conversation for some, might involve talking to a lawyer, for reasons besides the more obvious things like helping you close on a house or get a will in place).
Don't Be Afraid of the Prenup
Documenting what you’ve agreed upon & helping negotiate those items that still need ironing out. This is done using a Prenuptial Agreement. WAIT! Hear me out, contrary to popular belief, a prenup does not mean that you are planning to get divorced, nor is it only for the rich. Yes, they can help a great deal in the event that things don’t work out, but they can be so much more than that, when done correctly using the right attorney. Defining distribution upon divorce is only one feature. It can also detail what responsibilities you each will have during the marriage, like:
- Managing credit cards
- Putting one of you through school, and paying for it
- Managing the bank accounts, household expenses & personal bills
- Retirement savings and benefits
- Life insurance
- Tax issues such as income, deductions and claims
- Any other financial matters that came up in your conversations
- Businesses either one of you might own, now or in the future
- Payments to kids from a previous relationship, or to the ex-wife/ ex-husband (a touchy subject)
The prenup also is used to make sure that your estate plan is handled how you’d like it, when used in conjunction with wills or trusts and will document what you each came into the marriage with. The agreement puts in place the terms of the marriage before conflicts arise which is why it’s a good idea to have this financial mission statement put in place. And no, its not just for rich people! But if you do have wealth coming into it, the prenup is especially helpful. Smart brides & grooms protect their assets.
How Can I Learn More About Prenups?
The very best way is to either visit www.legallyready2wed.com and fill out the form on the page & we will get back to you to schedule a complimentary, confidential consultation. Or you can send an email to [email protected]. We’ll then have an honest conversation (not a sales pitch). If you need something that I can’t help you with (for instance, immigration services) I can point you in the right direction with a lawyer that I trust. Give us a call at 630 250 8813 and remember, the more time you but between the prenup and the wedding, the better- for both legal and personal reasons.