Should I sign a prenup?

Although prenups used to be caricatured as documents only used by extremely wealthy men or women who in their later years married much younger spouses presumed to be “gold diggers.” There was humor associated with the prospect of signing away future wealth when that wealth seemed to be the motivating factor behind the marriage. 

These days, however, when divorce is nearly as common as marriage, and almost 80 percent of divorceé(e)s remarry, prenups are taken far more seriously. Often, both would-be spouses have accumulated wealth that they want to preserve for the children of their first marriages. Also, viewing the statistics, it’s difficult for anyone to deny that any marriage may not last “until death do us part.” Therefore, now that a great number of individuals consult with competent estate planning attorneys before getting married, especially for the second time, it is probably wise to include a discussion of prenups in your legal estate planning consult

Does signing a prenup insinuate mistrust into your marriage vows?

Not if both parties express their feelings openly and come to the conclusion that the prenup is just one in a series of insurance policies they want to have in order to be prepared for an unexpected worst-case scenario. After all, such documents are an important part of estate planning. Though some, like wills and trusts, help prepare for inevitable death, others prepare for undesirable potential calamities, such as catastrophic illness or injury. It may make sense to put a prenup in the latter category.

Viewed in this light, prenups are not bad omens, just reasonable precautions. On the other hand, if one party is uncomfortable at the prospect of signing the prenup, the potential for future problems — financial and emotional — is all too real. If a prenup is being considered, it should be openly discussed during premarital counseling. No one should ever be coerced into signing a prenup.

What other purposes do prenups serve?

While couples about to wed believe they know their intended through and through, but this is rarely the case. Understanding another human being completely, in terms of deep-seated emotional perceptions, ingrained habits, long-kept secrets, and hidden compulsions, takes time. Even childhood sweethearts learn new things about their mates after years of marriage. In this vein, it is not as rare as you might think for your beloved has kept a serious secret from you, one that may negatively impact your life together.

A surprising number of people have secret addictions — to drugs, alcohol, gambling, compulsive sexual behavior or hidden psychiatric problems, like eating disorders, episodes of depression or mania, hoarding, intense jealousy and/or suspicion, etc. Many of these may lead to overspending and terrible debt and/or expensive therapy. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that if the marriage breaks up you won’t be saddled with overwhelming debt you had no part in accumulating?

Do you think it’s impossible that you are unaware of some major character flaw of your fiancé(e)? Think again.

According to a study reported in Psychology Today, over 4 million women in this country, are or have been (usually unknowingly) married to gay men. Most likely, a similar number of men are married to lesbians. If such big secrets can be kept from intimates, one has to consider the possibility that future revelations may lead to troubled marriages and divorce. In such circumstances, you may be grateful that you signed a prenup, protecting yourself and your family financially from what was once unthinkable.

There are a good many reasons that signing a prenup may be practical and reasonable. Nonetheless, you may still recoil from its distinctly unromantic approach to a sacred bonding. Since you should never sign any document you don’t feel comfortable signing, your best protection is speaking to a compassionate, experienced estate planning attorney before making the decision that is right for you.