We Want Prenup, We Want Prenup! (But What the Heck is it, Anyway?!)

I used to think that if you wanted a prenup (short for “prenuptial agreement”) then you were in the wrong headspace for marriage. I mean, thinking about doomsday before you even had your big day?? How unromantic. But that’s until I got real and saw that divorce can turn people into crazy, money-hungry monsters.

No, prenups aren’t just for the wealthy. According to a recent study, 44% of all single people and 49% of divorced people thought a prenup was a good idea. Many attorneys recommend couples of all budgets get a prenup, especially if they have assets that might be put at risk in the event of a divorce (like property in their name, ownership in a business, an inheritance, or children from a previous marriage). It’s a two-for-one: you’re protected in the long run should your marriage go south, and in setting up the prenup you’re both forced to disclose your financial situation before walking down the aisle.

Here’s what a prenup does:

  • Determines how property should be divided in case of divorce, including what’s “separate” property and what’s “marital” property, if you want to do something different than the state you live in. Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin are all “community property” states, which means that everything gets divided up 50/50.
  • States how much alimony will be paid in the event of divorce.
  • Determines who’s on the hook for debt (including student loans and shared credit card debt).

You should seriously consider a prenup if you:

  • Are expecting a large inheritance.
  • Are in school for a potentially lucrative career.
  • Own all or part of a business.

Getting a simple prenup costs around $700 online (I like LegalZoom for a quick and easy prenup), or you can meet with an attorney, which will run you around $1,500. You can’t do this on your own, sadly; it won’t stand up in court, even if it’s notarized. Steven Spielberg famously penned a prenup on a napkin with his first wife in 1985. Her lawyers were able to contest it after they divorced four years later on grounds that her attorney wasn’t present. As a result: she received a $100 million settlement. Ouch!


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