Prenuptial Agreements: Because There's No Such Thing As a Fairy Tale Marriage
You’re a world-class fashion model on a photo shoot for Italian Vogue in Machu Picchu. After the shoot, an incredibly handsome tour guide, his beautiful brown eyes radiating softness, offers to show you a nearby sacred site. “Yes, I’d love to go,” you coo. Following him up the slippery, serpentine trail, your gaze is helplessly fixed on his perfectly shaped butt and legs. Later, when you sit together, gazing westward across the stunning valley of the Urubamba, he explains its ancient mysteries. You suddenly realize you’re falling madly in love.
A week later, at your East Hampton summer beach house, and over your daddy’s acerbic protestations, you marry the tour guide in a private ceremony overlooking the sparkling ocean.
Then, shortly after returning to Manhattan, as you pass Bathazar in Soho on your way to a business meeting, you suddenly recognize your true love seated at the bar. A beautiful girl sits alongside, leaning against him, giggling while whispering sexily into his ear. Neither of them, of course, pays the slightest attention to their surroundings.
All of your amorous illusions instantly crash and burn.
A sensational divorce follows. Incredibly, the former tour guide walks away with your East Hampton summer beach house, and three million in cash. You’re left feeling like a homeless war refugee.
Hopeless romantics often make serious blunders when choosing a matrimonial partner. In today’s economically sobering climate, it’s little wonder why so many individuals turn steely-eyed in drafting prenuptial agreements before cementing their plans for matrimonial “bliss.”
What Is It?
Lawyers specializing in prenuptial agreements spell out, often in painfully meticulous terms, exactly what happens if your marriage suddenly – or slowly – hits a brick wall. Prenuptial agreements are designed to protect all the material assets upon which your financial and emotional well-being ultimately depend.
Prenuptial agreements crafted by knowledgeable attorneys can help spouses responsibly manage ownership of assets while enjoying their marriage. Agreements address issues like taxes and the filing of individual or joint returns. They also address real-estate matters. For instance, if you’re a penniless poet, and plan to reside in a house owned by your lovely millionaire soon-to-be wife, the prenuptial agreement will thoughtfully articulate what, if any, house-related payments you would be required to make. Inheritance rights are also carefully drafted in prenuptial agreements. And, of course, before excitedly skipping down Madison Avenue to choose a Vera Wang wedding dress, a wise prenuptial lawyer will soberly contemplate how things will be divvied up in the event your fresh-faced fiancé turns out to be a card-carrying lunatic.
Who Needs It?
Anyone who might be concerned about losing control of his or her financial and material assets, as a result of getting married, will want a prenuptial agreement.
Prenups can be especially helpful when you, or both you and fiancé, possess serious assets. Often amorous couples settle on a “yours is yours and mine is mine” legal approach. If the marriage suddenly turns out to a nasty cat-and-dog fight, or simply sinks into a depressing and bewildering abyss, each spouse gets to retain all the priceless property they owned prior to taking that risky walk down the aisle. Neither party can claim the other’s property. Any assets acquired during the time span of the marriage are usually divided equally. But skilled attorneys can also alter those rights according to your particular ownership interests. Additionally, you may want to opt out of the default state laws, which can vary widely on legal interpretations of what’s deemed an “equitable” distribution of communal or marital property.
The only thing worse than having no prenup is having an unenforceable prenup. That is, one that’s sloppily drafted, or as is generally the case, not honored outside the United States.
Moreover, most American judges don’t like prenups, either. They deem them unfair to the spouse with the least money. So it’s essential that any attorney you hire rigorously follows all formalities, including guaranteeing that Mr. or Miss Right receives scrupulous legal counsel. Full disclosure is paramount as well. Each party must divulge the entire nature and extent of his or her assets in writing.
A final risk in drafting a bulletproof prenuptial agreement, and one not to be taken lightly, is entailed when you fail to recognize that all negotiations are, by their very nature, adversarial. In other words, by the time your precious document’s ready to be signed, that magic feeling may have evaporated into thin air.
*Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. You should not rely on this article as a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances, and you should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel. Publication of this article and your receipt of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship.