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Before signing on for marriage, should you sign a prenup?

It’s not uncommon for celebrities to sign a prenuptial agreement. But while celebrities may have hundreds of millions at stake, these agreements are by no means limited to the rich and/or famous. 

Having practiced family law for many years, I’ve handled numerous prenuptial agreements for clients. From the most basic perspective, it’s simply negotiating a contract. Yes, Maryland does have laws governing the division of marital property that are designed to fairly distribute assets, but a prenuptial agreement can provide further clarity and specification.  And provisions concerning spousal support can also be addressed.

For some though, the idea of a prenuptial agreement can seem intimidating, unromantic and stressful. People have likened it to planning for a divorce before you’re even married. 

The reasons for entering into a prenuptial agreement are diverse. Perhaps it’s a second marriage and a one spouse owns a growing business and wants to preserve the value of that business for his/her existing family, and not for the new spouse. It can be used to identify all of the assets that exist prior to the marriage for the purpose of excluding those assets from consideration in a subsequent divorce. Prenuptials are useful in preserving the assets of a widow/widower who inherited form a deceased spouse in order to ensure that the children inherit the assets in the event of a divorce. It can be used to set out inheritance rights in the event of the death of one of the spouses.  And it can be used to set out how the finances of the marriage are to be handled as well as provisions for post- divorce support (alimony).

These agreements can range from a simple contract to a fairly complex document. It can be a quick process or it can drag out. One spouse or the other may have very strong feelings about an issue.

But, drawing up a prenuptial agreement can also have a positive impact such as enabling a couple to discuss their financial situation very honestly and directly, providing clarity about the future.

For anyone contemplating a prenuptial agreement, my advice to both parties would be:

  1. Know your assets.
  2. Know which of your soon-to-be spouse’s assets you would be waiving your rights to.
  3. Know your spouse – and what you’re planning to do with the rest of your lives.
  4. Plan accordingly – a prenuptial agreement should not be introduced at the last minute.

Interested in drawing up a prenuptial agreement or learning more about the process? Call Michael Hendler at 410-539-5195.

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