The popularity of prenuptial agreements is on the rise for couples of all ages. A prenup can be just as important to couples on their first marriage and in their 20’s and 30’s, as it is to individuals on a second or third marriage and in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s (and on up). Today, many couples want to establish property and financial rights before marriage. The content of the agreement is unique because it is based upon the couple’s particular goals and financial situation. If a prenup is properly prepared, future disputes over money and other issues can be avoided. Many people think of a prenuptial agreement as a contract like any other. That is not exactly the case. Because of the delicate nature of prenuptial agreements and the relationship of the parties, it is much more than just a contract. In addition to general contract principles, prenups come with a set of rules and regulations all their own. For that reason, how a couple arrives at agreement and how the prenup is drafted is extremely important.
Because of the increasing number of “drive-thru” legal service providers, the complexity of prenups is often understated. These providers advertise an easy way to complete legal documents and sometimes create false expectations about how to arrive at a prenup. A major concern must be getting a prenup that will have the intended effect, not just “getting it done.” This is an important document that will have a long-lasting effect.
From the client’s perspective, prenups may not seem complicated. With a good attorney, the process should certainly not be overwhelming. Very often it is the negotiations leading up to the agreement that can impact the relationship and whether or not the couple reaches agreement. It is the attorney’s job to make sure that negotiations take place in a dignified and respectful way and that the agreement protects the client’s interests and goals. Once an agreement is reached on the major terms of the agreement, the attorney must draw up an agreement that will be durable in light of existing laws and the couple’s long-term relationship. With so many drive-thru legal services available, clients sometimes have difficulty understanding why a prenup cannot be done with a “one size fits all” approach.
Working with an experienced attorney is important to the prenup process. First, in making any decisions, it is important that the client understand the law. This could affect the client’s thoughts on what needs to be done. It is also important to work with an attorney who can help address the practical aspects of putting a fair and reasonable agreement into place. When having initial meetings with the client, I sometimes find that either some fine-tuning is needed to the original objectives or new objectives emerge. Attorneys with a higher level of experience can often pick up on some of these subtleties.
Equally important as choosing a competent and experienced attorney is to find someone with whom the client feels comfortable, who has expertise in this area of the law. Prenuptial negotiations should always keep the special relationship of the parties in mind as well as the client’s goals. This can sometimes be difficult with the flood of information available through the internet. However, while practice areas may overlap, attorneys are still individuals – it is important to find someone who can understand the client’s own situation and approach issues in the right way. With a prenup, the goal should be to arrive at a fair agreement and to preserve the couple’s relationship. To read more about prenups, please see my website.