The Pros and Cons of Prenuptial Agreements

Marriage is a declaration of love and commitment to your partner, but it’s also a legal agreement. When you get married, you have certain responsibilities to your spouse.

New York is an “equitable distribution state.” That means marital property must be divided equitably and fairly when a couple divorces—but it doesn’t necessarily mean assets will be split equally.

prenuptial agreement on a table

A prenuptial agreement can help protect your assets after you get married. Read on to learn the pros and cons of prenuptial agreements.

What Is a Prenuptial Agreement?

Also called a prenuptial contract or “prenup,” a prenuptial agreement is a contract between two future spouses. It’s often drawn up by a family law attorney and spells out how property will be divided after a couple divorces or if one spouse dies.

In New York, a prenuptial agreement must be drafted before a couple gets married, and it goes into effect as soon as they marry. The agreement must be in writing and signed by both spouses before a notary public. Oral agreements and unsigned agreements are not legally valid.

Who Should Get a Prenuptial Agreement?

We tend to think of rich people and celebrities getting prenuptial agreements, but people of modest means can benefit from having one.

Even if you don’t consider yourself wealthy, it’s impossible to know how your life might change over the years. A prenuptial agreement can protect any assets you acquire during your marriage if you and your spouse get divorced down the line.

There are other considerations. If you’re a single parent, a prenuptial agreement can help you protect your child’s inheritance or personal savings if you and your future spouse eventually divorce. It can also be helpful if you want to keep certain assets separate, like a family home or business.

If you don’t have a prenuptial agreement, the court gets to decide how to divide property after you die or if you divorce.

hand of a man put on an engagement ring on the finger of the bride

Pros of Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements can be customized to your specific needs and situation. They can be beneficial if:

• You have substantial wealth and want to protect it.
• You want to protect the inheritance rights of children and grandchildren from a previous marriage.
• You have a business or professional practice and want to protect it if you divorce.
• Your future spouse has significant debt (a prenuptial agreement can protect you from responsibility for that debt).
• You want to outline the details of decision-making and responsibility sharing before you get married.
• You want to limit how much spousal support you must provide after a divorce.

Cons of Prenuptial Agreements

There are also disadvantages to having a prenuptial agreement:

• Some people find prenuptial agreements distasteful and worry that such an agreement creates a sense of distrust before a marriage even begins.
• If you’re a low- or no-wage earner, a prenuptial agreement might make it difficult to sustain your lifestyle after divorce.
• You might give up your right to inherit your spouse’s estate when they die.
• You might compromise on something in the prenuptial agreement that creates a burden or financial hardship down the line.
• If you contribute to the success and growth of your spouse’s business, you may not be able to claim a share of that increase in value.

In short, a prenuptial agreement has advantages and drawbacks. It can do more than protect assets. It can also protect kids and grandkids from a previous marriage and help outline how decisions are made and each spouse’s responsibilities during marriage.

Prenuptial agreements often have a silver lining: They encourage future spouses to discuss expectations before they get married. This can help prevent disagreements about hot-button issues like finances that often lead to divorce.

Get Professional Help When Drafting a Prenuptial Agreement

Prenuptial agreements aren’t one-size-fits-all. They can and should be customized for your situation. The experienced family law attorneys at Joseph A. Ledwidge P.C. will work with you to draft and review a prenuptial agreement that satisfies the needs and wishes of you and your future spouse.  

Contact us online or by phone at 718-276-6656 to arrange a no-obligation consultation with an experienced New York family law attorney. We serve clients throughout the New York metro area, including Queens, NY; Jamaica, NY; and Brooklyn, NY.

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