How (and why) to bring up a prenup

April 18, 2017

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In this blog, Arlene G. Dubin, a partner at Moses & Singer, New York, who is nationally recognised in the US as an authority in the area of marital agreements considers why couples should consider prenuptial agreements and how best to raise the topic.

Long before you pop the “M” word, you should pop the “P” word.

As a result of the high divorce rate, changing divorce laws, the trend toward marrying later and great longevity, the number of prenuptial agreements has increased exponentially. The idea of bringing up a prenuptial agreement, however, still makes many people uncomfortable. Many people carry preconceived notions and baggage about prenups. While prenups have received a lot of public and media attention recently, many people still don’t understand their value or how to broach the subject.

Why?

Bringing up the subject of a prenuptial agreement can be a great way to learn more about one another’s expectations, dreams and hopes. Whether you have a high net worth or are just starting out, have children or don’t, there are dozens of reasons a prenup is beneficial to you and your future spouse. Here are just a few:

  • To protect your pre-marriage nest egg (such as your home, pension plan, stock portfolio, or property with sentimental value)
  • To protect gifts and inheritances you receive
  • To ensure that in the event of death or divorce, you will avoid difficult disputes over property (such as family businesses, stock options, professional degrees, licenses and practices, pension plans, and copyrights)
  • To ensure that children from a prior marriage receive their intended inheritance
  • To insulate ownership in a professional practice or business
  • To protect yourself from your partner’s pre-marriage debt, e.g., credit card debt or student loans
  • To establish the value of non-monetary contributions to a marriage, such as being a stay-at-home spouse and making career sacrifices

When?

Sliding a prenup across the dinner table a week before the wedding is not the appropriate time to bring up this important topic. Conversations about concerns, expectations, and responsibilities are best conducted early in the relationship while dating. As your relationship gets more serious, your conversations should get more detailed and specific.

Where?

Where do you normally discuss topics important to your partnership, such as life goals, finances or family? Find or create a calm, neutral spot where you will both feel open, at ease and unpressured. Whether you’re sitting at your living room sofa, taking an afternoon walk or having a quiet dinner, you’ll want to create an environment where both of you are most comfortable — mentally and physically.

How?

Even when couples understand the reasons for marriage contracts, many aren’t sure just how to initiate the discussion. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Be open, honest and direct
  • State your specific concerns
  • Present an idea to be implemented by the two of you over time
  • Invite discussion about any underlying issues that arise
  • Work out your issues collaboratively

Conversation starters – some possibilities

“Let’s talk about our future, what we both want, our lifestyles, our present and future finances. I want to make sure all our money issues are addressed and resolved in an agreement. Then we won’t have them hanging over us when we get married.”

“My children are very concerned about my marriage and what it might mean for their inheritance. I’m worried about this too.  Since most of my assets are from their father, they are entitled to those assets.  They will be happier about this marriage if we do some estate planning.  That will make me happier too.”

“I worked very hard to acquire a nest egg, and I want to make sure I have it in the unlikely event the unthinkable occurs between us.”

Prenup no-no’s

  • Presenting the idea of a prenup as a fait accompli
  • Springing a prenup upon your intended at the last moment
  • Being overbearing or heavy handed

REMEMBER: Don’t let a prenup fall to the bottom of your “To Do” list. The longer you wait, the harder it will become. The discussions you have revolving around the prenup are conversations you will have once you are married.  Getting to know your partner’s position on these important aspects early can help head off more difficult discussions during the marriage. If you can’t talk about touchy issues during courtship, it doesn’t bode well for the marriage.

Arlene G. Dubin is a partner at Moses & Singer, New York – www.mosessinger.com. She has practiced matrimonial and family law for more than 25 years and is Chair of the firm’s Matrimonial and Family Law practice. Nationally recognised in the US as an authority in the area of marital agreements, she has extensive experience in the negotiation and drafting of prenuptial, postnuptial, cohabitation, parenting, separation and stipulation of settlement agreements. Arlene’s practice encompasses all aspects of matrimonial and family law. She handles complex financial, tax and international issues, equitable distribution, spousal and child support, child custody and access, estate planning, and issues relating to same-sex couples and non-traditional families. She routinely represents high net worth individuals, including hedge fund managers, private equity and other financial executives as well as real estate developers and owners, celebrities, athletes, entrepreneurs and professionals. Arlene is trained in mediation and collaborative law and strives, wherever possible, to resolve matrimonial matters without litigation. Contact Arlene at E: adubin@mosessinger.com or T: (212) 554 – 7651.