Bucks County, Pennsylvania Prenuptial Agreement Attorney
Most people have probably heard of prenuptial agreements, and associate them with rich celebrity marriages. Most of the time, when we hear about celebrity divorces, there is always a question of whether or not they had a prenuptial agreement and how much money was awarded upon divorce.
For the average person, a prenuptial agreement is probably unnecessary, but there are many people who really should consider a prenup. If you have what you consider a lot of money, a lot of property, a small business, or may someday inherit one of these things, it may be important to protect your finances with a prenuptial agreement.
Unlike in movies, a prenup does not mean that you do not trust your spouse. There are plenty of reasons that protecting your assets and keeping them together may be important, especially if you own a business. If you are in Bucks County and are considering getting a prenuptial agreement, contact the Law Offices of Sadek and Cooper to discuss your options.
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What is a “Prenup”?
Prenuptial agreements, often called “prenups,” are agreements made before marriage to limit how much of one spouse’s assets would be given to the other upon divorce. The name “prenuptial” simply means “before marriage.” Many people often mistakenly call this a “prenuptual,” but the proper name is “prenuptial.”
In a Pennsylvania divorce without a prenup, property is usually divided “equitably.” Most judges think of this as “fairly,” and give each party what they think they deserve from the marital property. That does not automatically mean each party gets 50% of the property, but often 50% is equitable. The property that gets divided upon divorce is only “marital property.” That generally means any property that is gained during the life of the marriage and any increase in value of property owned before the marriage. The property each party owns before the marriage is referred to as “individual property,” and is usually kept by its owner upon divorce. There are some exceptions to this general rule, but this is sufficient for a general understanding of marital and individual property. Many things, though, can grow in value so much that their increase in value can be worth more than the individual property – and would be available for division upon divorce.
The actual method used to protect property in a prenup can vary from case to case. Sometimes, the agreement is used to exclude increase in value of certain assets from being considered marital property. Others settle specific amounts that will be awarded upon divorce after a certain number of years. Others may simply establish what property is individual property, so that upon divorce, the other party does not try to access those assets.
A prenup is not a declaration of mistrust. Just because you seek a prenup does not mean that you do not trust your spouse or that you plan on getting a divorce – it is simply a financial protection. Usually, prenups end up being quite fair to the non-wealthy spouse. Some may even have ways to cancel the agreement in the case of infidelity or abuse, which would remove any limitations on what the non-wealthy spouse can get in division of the marital property.
Who Needs a Prenuptial Agreement in PA?
The average person probably does not need a prenuptial agreement, but many people who might think they do not need one may miss their opportunity to get one. For instance, a small business owner may not be very wealthy when compared to celebrities and business moguls. If that business owner enters into a marriage while owning a business, then the business grows during the life of the marriage, depending on the way the business is owned, all of that growth could be split with their spouse upon divorce. That would mean ownership rights, as well as management and control, could be divided between the two spouses upon divorce. This could be devastating to the business’ management and could harm investors, employees, partners, and the business entity itself.
Farmers, who usually own large pieces of property and may keep their farms run as a business entity, may risk losing a large share of their farm upon divorce. Since this land and business could be the farmer’s main income, dividing that property could be a dangerous financial move.
Ultimately, if you have a lot of money, property, unique assets, or own a business, you may be hurting yourself down the road to enter into a marriage without a prenuptial agreement.
How to Discuss Your Prenup the Right Way
If you’ve been following this blog long enough you’ll know our advice to most couples who are getting married in the state of Pennsylvania is to pursue a prenuptial agreement.
But we hear from many clients they find the idea of talking about a prenup scary and difficult. They aren’t sure what the etiquette is, or how they can have the conversation without angering their significant other.
That’s why we thought we’d take some time to discuss the best way to approach a prenup conversation.
Start the Initial Discussion Before You Start the Process
Brides.com says the first question a woman should ask when the fiance brings up a prenup is, “Where in the process are you?“
We would submit the only right answer to this question is, “It’s something I’ve begun thinking about.”
Do not plunk a fully finished prenup agreement down in front of your intended and ask him or her to sign. Do not even retain a lawyer until you’ve had the initial conversation.
Timing of the Initial Conversation
Since you want to sign the prenup about six months before the wedding to avoid seeing it thrown out later because of the appearance of duress, you should start the conversation eight or nine months before the wedding day.
This gives you both plenty of time to get used to the idea of having a prenup in the first place, and to work with your lawyers and each other to negotiate the specifics.
The Goal of the First Conversation
The goal of the first conversation should be to discuss the idea of having a prenup, not to hash out all the details of one. It should also be to discuss the reasons why you might want to have a prenup, and why it would protect both of you from unintended circumstances.
Treat the Prenup Like It’s Part of a Larger Picture
There’s a reason some marriage experts now treat prenups as part of the wedding planning process, just like choosing the venue or ordering the cake. Because handled correctly, it is part of an essential life planning conversation about finances, and careers, that you’d want to have anyway.
- Does one of you plan to put the other through school? You should expect to benefit from that.
- Does one of you plan to give up a career to raise the children? You should feel you will not have to scrape by with a minimum wage job and no other safety net should the marriage dissolve.
- Does one of you have significant assets the other doesn’t share? You shouldn’t feel like you’re going to struggle financially while your spouse lives like a king or a queen off your assets.
- Are you a creative professional, developer, or someone else who may end up owning royalties, patents, or other intellectual property? You shouldn’t have to worry your spouse will end up with creative rights or control over that property in the event of a divorce.
- Do you own a business, or plan on starting one? While your spouse may expect to be supported financially in the event of a divorce, this protects you against giving up control of the business to someone you’re at odds with.
Keep in mind it may take you several follow-up conversations to nail down what is important to both of you.
Remember, this is a negotiation.
Take a fair and balanced approach. Ideally the both of you will be co-creators in this process. You will create an agreement that protects both parties and provides equal benefits to both parties.
Remember, if a prenuptial agreement is too one-sided a judge may not honor it anyway.
Make sure your spouse knows it’s not all about protecting you. Make sure you’re not planning for the marriage to end, but that you’re treating this like you’d treat buying a death and dismemberment policy. You don’t want to die or be dismembered, you just acknowledge it could happen.
Remember, how you say things matters as much as what you say.
Using “I” statements that aren’t accusatory is very helpful, such as, “I’m worried I’ll be financially disadvantaged if this marriage does not last.” Or: “Securing strategic control of my business is very important to me.”
But it’s also helpful to make sure your partner knows it’s not all about protecting you. “I want to make sure both of us can live comfortable lifestyles if things go wrong,” is a very different statement than, “I want you to sign this so I can be sure you don’t screw me over later.”
Get different lawyers!
You and your intended should always have different lawyers. The purpose of this is not to have the lawyers get between you and your betrothed, fighting like bulldogs and causing strife.
Rather, the purpose is to ensure both of your interests are protected, and to ensure the agreement is fair and balanced enough for a judge to uphold it. If you used the same lawyer the agreement will automatically be suspect.
You can always tell your lawyer your goals, and what you and your spouse have discussed, and what you’re hoping to achieve. A good one will honor all these things while ensuring no problematic language, or language with unintended consequences, makes it into the document.
Call a Bucks County Prenuptial Agreement Attorney of Sadek & Cooper
If you live in Bucks County and are considering getting a prenuptial agreement for your marriage, you should speak to an attorney who has experience working with prenups. The Law Offices of Sadek and Cooper serve the greater Philadelphia area, including Bucks County, and handle all kinds of family law matters, including prenuptial agreements. For a consultation, call 215-814-0395.