YOU CAN GAIN CONTROL OVER YOUR FUTURE FINANCIAL SITUATION
If you do not sign a prenup, your marriage will be governed by a complex set of laws. In California, these laws are the California Family Code and Probate Code. The choice is between a set of rules negotiated by you and your fiancé, or those imposed by the State, over which you will have no control. And remember, prenups can be drafted to protect both spouses, not just a wealthy spouse. With a prenup you have the choice to manage and divide your fiances as you please.
YOU WILL LEARN TO COMMUNICATE TO YOUR PARTNER ABOUT MONEY ISSUES
Through the process of your prenup, you may find that it will in fact strengthen your marriage.The process requires a full disclosure of your financial situation and involves an open and honest discussion about how you will handle your money and plan your future. One psychiatrist states: “Openly agreed-upon rules are likely to be a better foundation for growth than are those latent rules that surface and prove to be either disagreeable or downright outrageous.
Also, prenups prepare you for marriage. Sooner or later you and your spouse are going to have to talk about money. Going into the marriage knowing what to expect is comforting and responsible. This eliminates conflict in the areas in the marriage that are covered in a prenuptial agreement.
PRENUPS CAN PROVIDE A PEACE OF MIND
No one plans on their house burning down, ending up in a nursing home, or suffering a disability, but they still take out insurance. As Dr. Ruth says: “We live in such a litigious society. Nobody knows what life brings. Hopefully we will never need it. What’s the big deal? Let’s do it and give it to the attorneys…for the new millennium, a prenup is part of a mature relationship, based on love, mutual trust and optimism.”
LIMITATIONS OF PRENUPS
California prenups cannot regulate child custody or child support – these are areas that are left to the court’s authority based on what is in the child’s best interests and, at least in part on the California child support guidelines. Child support is a child’s right, not a parents, so parents cannot contract away a child’s right to support.
AGREEMENTS PERTAINING TO SPOUSAL SUPPORT
California law allows you to waive or limit spousal support as long as the provision is not deemed unconscionable (unreasonably unfair). It’s hard to know exactly what a court will consider “unconscionable,” but, for example, let’s say a prenup contains a complete prohibition on spousal support, and one spouse to the contract has substantially more assets and income. If that spouse tries to enforce the spousal support waiver after a long-term marriage, and the provision would leave the other spouse destitute, a judge may think twice before upholding that agreement.
If there is a significant difference in the amount of wealth between the spouses, instead of completely waiving spousal support, one alternative is to place limits on the amount and duration of support. The amount and duration can be based on a formula which takes into account the income of the parties and the duration of the marriage.
HOW DO PRENUPS AFFECT COMMUNITY PROPERTY
In the absence of a prenup, California community property law provides that all community property (any property acquired during the marriage that is not a gift or an inheritance) is divided equally upon divorce. It usually doesn’t matter if the property is in one party’s name – if it is acquired during marriage, with some exceptions, it is community property.
Property owned before marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance is considered “separate property” – which means it belongs exclusively to the spouse that acquired it and doesn’t fall under the 50/50 community property rule. However, efforts to improve, enhance, or contribute to separate property can create a community property interest in that separate property. This is where a prenup can come into play. A prenup can provide that your spouse never acquires a community interest in your separate property.
If you don’t have a prenup, the determination of what is separate and what is community property often requires the use of forensic accountants that can trace dates of purchase, purchase prices, contributions, and increases or decreases in value over time. In high-asset cases, the accounting and legal fees over these matters can run into the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars.
Furthermore, earnings are community property. If you married without a prenup and earned $50,000,000 during your marriage, that entire sum would be community property. That means your spouse would own one-half of that property and anything purchased with that property.
A prenup can regulate all aspects of how separate and community property assets and liabilities are treated. In the case of a financially independent couple with their own resources, a prenup can provide that all income, assets and debts acquired or incurred remain separate property. On the other hand, a couple might agree that all property accumulated during the marriage remain community property but that certain property brought into the marriage, such as family businesses or funds, always remains separate. Since each situation is different, a prenup should be carefully tailored to meet the circumstances of each couple. Prenuptial Agreements are for everyone and can be personalized for each and every couple to fit their specific needs.